Reconciliation processes in post-conflict societies are often highly complex. This activity helps students gain a greater understanding of the nature of reconciliation and a more profound appreciation for reconciliation processes throughout history
Modified and adapted from Exercise 2.5 in Peacebuilding: A Caritas Training Manual
Rationale: In this exercise, students think about the interconnection between the various elements that are necessary for reconciliation to occur after a conflict has ended. By creating their own definitions and examining the relationship between the concepts of truth, justice, peace, and mercy, students deepen their understanding of a complex process that has no one right way of being completed.
Materials: Handout on Truth, Justice, Peace, Mercy
Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
- To examine the relationship between the concepts truth, peace, justice, mercy
- To understand the meaning of reconciliation and that there is no one set reconciliation process
- Ask students what it means “to reconcile” with someone. Ask students what reconciliation means in the context of a conflict between friends or countries.
- Explain that there are many meanings and processes to describe reconciliation as a part of peacebuilding. Here is USIP’s definition:
Reconciliation is the long-term process by which the parties to a violent dispute build trust, learn to live cooperatively, and create a stable peace. It can happen at the individual level, the community level, and the national level. It may involve dialogue, admissions of guilt, judicial processes, truth commissions, ritual forgiveness, and sulha (a traditional Arabic from of ritual forgiveness and restitution).
Source: Peace Terms
Share with students that reconciliation is a process, not an event, and that its significance and implementation varies from culture to culture.
- Explain to students that they are going to participate in an exercise that explores the various components that are a part of reconciliation.
- Divide participants into four groups and assign each group one of four identities: Truth, Justice, Peace, and Mercy.
- Distribute the handout and have each group meet for 10-15 minutes to discuss their identity and answer the questions on the handout. Have each group select a representative who will speak about their identity and will field questions from the other identity groups at a press conference.
- Have the four representatives sit in front of the group. Have each person present themselves using some of the questions from their worksheet to inform their comments.
- Ask people from the audience to pose questions to each identity. You can pose questions as well using some of the following:
- Do you cause conflict?
- Is honesty important?
- How many truths are there?
- Is equality important to you”
- Are you always right?
- Can you have justice without peace?
- Should one have equal opportunity and is it realistic?
- Do you seek harmony?
- Is it always important to show respect to everyone?
- Do you favor the underdog?
- Can you have peace without justice?
- Are you for the benefit of only certain people?
- Is it important to you to forgive, forget, and move on?
- Do you cover things up?
- Why is it so difficult for many people to like you?
- What have you learned about reconciliation and the four identities from this process?
- How would you represent your order of importance as a sculpture?
- After they create a sculpture, have them all stand in a circle with their right hand in the middle, touching the other hands. The space between the people and underneath their hands is where reconciliation can occur.
- What does this tell you about reconciliation?
- What international reconciliation processes do you know of? The following are examples but each has its own design and purpose. You can explore these on your own to learn more about what reconciliation can look like.
Australia (between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians)
For more information about a reconciliation process in Iraq, you can watch our Partnerships in Peacebuilding video.
Truth, Justice, Peace, Mercy
Directions: Write your responses to the questions below, imagining that you are your assigned identity.
- When you see a conflict, what do you want to see happen? What questions or concerns do you want addressed? For example, how would you finish the following sentence: “I am ______________ and I am concerned about…………..”
- In the middle of conflict, what do you require?
- What is your relationship to the other identities? Who is your closest working partner and who gives you trouble? What is the order of importance of the four identities?
- In terms of the other identities, whom do you fear most? Why?
- What would be a song or a motto that would help others to understand who you are and what you’re about?
Learn more about USIP’s resources for students and educators.