Waging Peace: A Post-Conflict Forgiveness and Reconciliation Model for Religious Conflicts

Waging Peace: A Post-Conflict Forgiveness and Reconciliation Model for Religious Conflicts

Guest writer Dr. Darrell Puls is presenting at the 2013 ACR Annual Conference

Two groups stand ready to kill each other because each group has become convinced that God is on their side and the other side is evil and must be vanquished at all costs. Sometimes the violence is verbal and sometimes it is physical, but the damage is long lasting and terribly real.

Religion and conflict—it’s a toxic brew. We read about them every day, and then turn away. We may read of a settlement finally reached, but have you ever really considered what happens when religious battles are ended through stalemate or settlement agreement? The combatants retreat into their armed enclaves, lick their wounds, dream of revenge, and then begin planning the next offensive. Extensive research has shown this pattern to be present in almost every conflict where religious belief and principles are argued as justification for verbal or physical violence. It does not matter much if the conflict is in a church, community, or between nations: churches split, communities remain divided, and nations maintain a heavily armed truce.

Having worked with organizational and church conflicts for more than three decades, these realities have fascinated and frustrated me. It’s as if we have simply accepted the premise that religious conflicts cannot be resolved and so we can only sit back and try not to be caught in the crossfire.

Mediate, you say. Mediate what, they reply. Our religious principles are not subject to negotiation! And they aren’t; taking on doctrinal issues is a rabbit tunnel with no exit.

What is the first thing that happens in conflict, but is particularly strong in religious conflicts? We dehumanize our opponents, and they dehumanize us. Once we have discarded their humanity and decided that God is on our side, everything becomes justifiable from suicide bombings to genocide.

This workshop offers a counter strategy that actually works. It comes from places such as Cyprus and East Timor, the gacaca courts of Rwanda and the South Africa truth and reconciliation process. It is based on universal human needs, and the psychology of forgiveness and reconciliation. It’s why I wrote the book The Road Home: A Guided Journey to Church Forgiveness and Reconciliation (Cascade Books, 2013).

You really can make a difference in religious conflicts. I am truly excited about this opportunity to share with you 10 years of research, design, and field testing.

More on Darrell Puls at www.conflicttopeace.com.


They’re saving the best for last! Waging Peace: A Post-Conflict Forgiveness and Reconciliation Model for Religious Conflicts will be presented by Dr. Darrell Puls on Friday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:00 pm.

Dr. Darrell Puls has worked in interpersonal and organizational conflict management since 1976 as a labor negotiator, mediator, and conflict analyst; is cross-trained as a police hostage negotiator, and specializes in conflict in churches and religious organizations. His doctoral studies in forgiveness and reconciliation practices took him to South Africa in 2004 as a delegate from ACR, and resulted in ground-breaking processes to promote healthy post-conflict forgiveness and reconciliation in both secular and religious settings. Darrell’s work in apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation has been cited around the world, endorsed by respected researchers and scholars, is quoted in numerous conflict management and legal texts, and is the subject of several articles on various mediation websites. Darrell is the author and designer of a field-tested large group forgiveness and reconciliation process that is documented in The Road Home: A Guided Journey to Church Forgiveness and Reconciliation (Cascade Books, 2013).


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