Over the span of recorded history, humankind has inflicted horrors upon itself. Attempts at ending these brutal conflicts usually involved a great deal of violence; problem solving entailed an “off with his head” approach. We would like to think that we are better than that today, but look no further than newspaper headlines to see that human behavior has not come very far since the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, there has been a positive development in modern day problem solving that Pruitt and Kim (2004) call “reconciliation” (p. 218). Simply put, this is the process of relationship repair. The importance of this theory cannot be understated. Reconciliation of divided people and societies is vital to preventing the reoccurrence of violence and building long-term, sustainable peace (Sustainable reconciliation, 2013). If people do not reconcile, conflicts will continue to arise time after time after time.
Pruitt and Kim (2004) maintain that there is a consensus among theorists that there are two requirements necessary for reconciliation to be effective and sustainable. The first requirement is that the parties must deal with the pains of the past and together develop a shared future. The second requirement is that there should be at a minimum the following set of elements: truth, forgiveness, justice and peace (p. 218). In my additional reading on the subject, I found that there is certainly a consensus regarding the first requirement. As to the second requirement, I assert that the authors are basing some of their arguments on several unsupported assumptions.
Pruitt and Kim (2004) make an assumption that there is consensus [emphasis added] among theorists that truth, forgiveness, justice and peace must [emphasis added] be included in the ingredients toward reconciliation (p. 218). I disagree with this assumption. There are other preeminent reconciliation theorists who contradict their view. For example, Luc Huyse (2003), a renowned reconciliation scholar, states that there are “four pillars of reconciliation . . . healing, justice, truth-telling, and reparation” (p. 32). David Bloomfield, who is another distinguished reconciliation theorist, posits:
Reconciliation’s basic problem is that no-one agrees how to define it or do it . . . It has become customary for almost every text on the subject to begin with an acknowledgement of the lack of consensual understanding, and use, of the term. (Bloomfield, 2006, p. 4.)
John Paul Lederdach, Professor of International Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame, says that reconciliation requires “peace, justice, truth, and mercy” (p. 12). Therefore, for Pruitt and Kim to declare that there is a consensus is a faulty assumption.
Pruitt and Kim (2004) also make the assumption, “Forgiveness plays such a crucial role in reconciliation that these two concepts are often used interchangeably” (p. 220). They say that forgiveness can be achieved when leaders on one or both sides express...