Saturday, February 20, 2010

Peace and Reconciliation Workshop

There’s a lot of talk in Honduras about reconciliation. Even more there is a lot of hope for peace among the people. But what kind of peace? What kind of reconciliation?

This past week I participated in the second of three week long workshops on Peace and Reconciliation sponsored by Caritas Honduras and led by peace workers from Caritas Honduras.

I went with a bit of skepticism, wondering if this was an attempt to cover over the injustices with the veneer of reconciliation – as, I believe, the government is hoping to do.

I was not the only one with such concerns as some participants expressed their concern that the injustices suffered the past few months – and the history of systemic injustice and inequality might be covered up in processes of working for peace and reconciliation.

I still have my concerns after the workshop, based on materials developed by Caritas International. You can download the manual in English here. But there were many things that impressed me.

First of all, this was not primarily about resolution of conflicts. It’s about transformation of conflicts.

Conflicts are not necessarily bad. Liliana, one of the facilitators, recalled the example of Rosa Parks and how her act of refusing to give up her seat in the bus ignited the active phase of the civil rights movement, a quite conflictive – but necessary – movement for social change.

Part of the workshop was an analysis of stages of conflicts - likened to a fire.
  1. Collection of materials, events, grudges, injustices, etc. that might lead up to a conflict.
  2. The spark that ignites the fire.
  3. The full-fledged fire, the conflagration.
  4. The lessening of tension – the ashes, sometimes hot, sometimes cold - but where there is still the possibility of major conflict.
  5. Finally, the period of regeneration when the original conflict has been transformed into another situation, which might have its own conflicts
But what really impressed was the session where strategies for transformation of conflicts were related to these stages. Here I began to see that the process is really a type of community organizing.

In the first stage, there is the need to reduce prejudices, to resolve conflicts, to intervene politically, to educate in human rights, and to plan agricultural and economic projects.

The second stage, where the open conflict begins, is best accompanied by nonviolent political action and training in political action, continued education in human rights, economic and agricultural projects which might bring together people in conflict, as well as working with, or creating, new means of communication.

The third stage – the conflict is open and intense – would best be accompanied by continued political advocacy, action to limit or lessen the effects of violence or repression by human rights observers, finding persons who can serve as intermediaries among the parties involved in the conflict, and psychosocial assistance and work to overcome trauma.

The fourth stage is when the conflict has calmed a bit, when the conflagration has ended and there are ashes, some still with the possibility of re-initiating the fire. Here there are many types of activities which aid the construction of peace:
  • redirecting the parties to learning and using nonviolent methods of change and conflict resolution.
  • becoming part of local organizations that work in reconciliation and peace-building or helping get them started
  • continuing economic development and agricultural projects.
  • reconstruction of needed infrastructures
  • continuing psychological and personal assistance to overcome trauma
  • continuing helping to develop alternative means of communication to share positive stories and opportunities for peace
  • demobilization of soldiers (especially in situations of armed conflict).
The final stage when the fire is totally extinguished is the time for regeneration. In this stage those who seek to construct peace and transform conflicts need to continue helping those who have been traumatized, to assist in the integration of soldiers into society and the return of those displaced by the conflict as well as any refugees, and to promote micro-businesses and agricultural projects as part of a process of development.

I think Honduras is somewhere between the third and fourth stages, though some would suggest that there is continuing - perhaps increasing - pressure on those in opposition, including some suspicious killings.

It’s interesting to note that in the diocese of Santa Rosa there have been major efforts to improve the diocesan radio stations, to seek more assistance in agricultural projects, as well as the formation of schools for political formation and advocacy in all the deaneries of the diocese.

It will be good to take some time in the next few weeks to sit down with folks and analyze where we are and what we can do to transform the situation in Honduras, to regenerate the civil and political society, or - as some in the Resistance propose - to help re-found Honduras.

It won't do to tell Zelaya to stop bothering Honduras, as Pepe Lobo recently did. This seems to me to be a way of trying to silence the cries of people who see things differently. Reconciliation means real change - since reconciliation cannot be built on silencing the truth. All the truth needs to come out - and people need to find new ways of living and working together.


Anonymous said...

I think Honduras is in stage 2-3. In other words, the real conflict has yet to arise. The regime will be very lucky for this not to turn into a civil war.

There are often lulls in conflicts. They can go on for a long time. But if the problem is not solved, the conflict is not over.


John (Juan) Donaghy said...

Phase 4 does not mean the conflict is over - but that the outward manifestations have lessened. There are still ashes (and live coals) which can possibly be reignited, returning to open conflagration (phase 3) - but there is the possibility that something new might come out, moving to a new stage of conflict which might be of a different order (phase 5).

Off the point, but related: I recently heard someone mention that some people who've been working for social change and conscientization of the people for decades note that the events of June 28 have re-inaugurated movements for social change in Honduras. So, thanks to Micheletti the people are organizing and acting for major social change in Honduras.

I hope and pray - and will be accompanying people who are working - that efforts can be kept nonviolent and the people can develop more resources for real change here.

RAJ said...

This is very useful information-- thank you. Thinking about this process outline, it seems to me that the "third stage" may well be prolonged, and that, while I would like to think Honduras is making a transition from stage three to four, I fear it is simply experiencing a change in tactics within the fully heated conflict. But what I take from this is a blueprint to guide efforts to continue to built, despite the destruction.

And I do believe it is true that the 2009 crisis has pushed progressive social movements far ahead of where they would otherwise have been. I just wish that international support existed for those forces.