Peace North Ireland for example, and they suggest a

Peace and Reconciliation : In Search of
Shared Identity

Edited by SEBASTIAN C. H. KIM, PAULINE KOLLONTAI and
GREG HOYLAND. York St John University, UK.

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What
is the book about?

            The
book is about the construction of a shared identity between people in conflicts
in order to promote and stimulate a peace and reconciliation process.  For the authors, the idea of a shared
identity is very important for peace in a conflict. Using different examples in
the world with different context so a different approach, researchers try to
explain the problem of identity in India, Bosnia-Herzegovina or North Ireland
for example, and they suggest a new vision to maybe resolve conflicts thanks to
a shared identity. The work uses principally a theology approach and religious
studies in the context of each example for the creation of an identity for a
peace and reconciliation process.

            Studies
are multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, but the central point of the studies
is the perspective from theology and the Christian religion and how the church
could help in the necessity of shared identity and be a factor to gather people
and stop disputes (and not divided people as religion could to it regularly).
In fact, all authors are specialist of theology or Christian religion in a
geographic area, for example : Israel Selvanayagam is a presbyter of the
Church of South India ; Choong Chee Pang is a speaker in the Trinity
Theological College in Singapore ; Nico Koopman is the Dean of Theology at
Stellenbosch University in South Africa ; Jooseop Keum is the director of The
World Council of Churches (WCC) and the head of the WCC’s Commission on World
Mission and Evangelism ; etc.

            Because
of specialisation, each author broaches the area where is from. Nico Koopman
intervenes about « Towards
Reconciliation and Justice in South Africa : Can Church Unity Make a Difference
? » or Israel Selvanayagam on « Truth and Reconciliation: An Interfaith Perspective from India ? ».

            The
most important subject of the book is the Korean division because it’s a real
conundrum for population, states and researchers who are studying the conflict
in this book.

 

In
which context is it written? Historical, social, intellectual.

            This
book is based upon the International
Conference on Peace & Reconciliation in 2006 in the York St John
University in the city of York in England. It was the first conference on the
concept of Peace and Reconciliation and it took the theme « In Search of Shared Identity : The Korean Peninsula and Other
Contexts ». After this first conference, regularly, new conferences
are organised : Los Angeles in 2009, Seoul in 2010, Israel in 2012 and
York in 2015. The book collects speeches during and works given after the
conference. The conference is held in partnership with Youngnak Presbyterian
Church in Seoul in South Korea, and has a particular interest in peace and
reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. So, the heart of the conference is
Korea but are approached India, South Africa, Germany, North Ireland,
Bosnia-Herzegovina and East Asian.

 

 What is the author’s argument? Summary of key
points and claims.

            The
book is divided in eleven chapters, each chapter corresponding to a speaker.
I’ll give key points and claims according to each intervention.

            First chapter is « Establishing a Shared Identity : The Role of
the Healing of Memories and of Narrative » by Robert Schreiter. He
emphasises the role of the memory in a divided population. The establishment of
a shared memory could heal a fragmented society. For the case of Korea, he’s
thinking about a new shared identity between both Korea when it will be the
good moment to create a new community. Sharing the memories could overcome the
history. He takes an interest in how religious tradition, in particular
Christian religion, could encourage the creation of a social space : a
reconciliation like the Christ do it.

            Second chapter is « What Does Common Identity Cost? Some German
Experiences and Provocative Questions » by Gerhard Sauter. He studied
the reunification in Germany after the fall of Berlin Wall after half a century
of Cold War and separation. He points out the importance of Christianity in the
reconciliation between East and West. In fact, Christianity is on the German
heritage and the Christian shared identity in the new Germany. He explains the
main role of the religion in the unification.

            Third chapter is « Truth and Reconciliation: An Interfaith
Perspective from India » by Israel Selvanayagam. India is a veritable
mosaic of ethnic groups, of languages and of religions, creating troubles, especially
with the Hindu community oppressing others community. The question of
reconciliation has to be discussed in interfaith relations with a generosity
and tolerance spirit. Moreover, the distinctive ways of the relation with
divinities or God, and the different religious traditions of reconciliation are
a crucial part in the search of peace and reconciliation.

            Fourth chapter is « Peace and Reconciliation: Biblical Themes in
the East Asian Context » by Choong Chee Pang. Choong Chee Pang tries
to link peace and reconciliation concept in the Old and New Testament with the
complexity of relations in East Asia. Because of a history full of hatred and
war, the shared identity existing in Asia has been separated. So, for him, East
Asia doesn’t need to create a new shared identity but the « appropriation, cherishing, renewal and
reinterpretation of those things they already have in common ».
However, the attitude of United States, China, Korea and Japan will have an
important part in the reconciliation.

            Fifth chapter is « Religion as a Tool for Waging Peace:
Theoretical Perspectives in the Context of Bosnia-Herzegovina » by Pauline
Kollontai. The situation of Bosnia-Herzegovina is representative of ethnical or
religious war after the explosion of Yugoslavia. But in the same time,
religious organisations try to override the difference like La Benevolencia and Merhamet. This kind
of organisation are factors of peace and reconciliation for people no matter
what origin or religion. They are broking stereotypes.

            Sixth chapter is « Embracing a Threatening Other : Identity and
Reconciliation in Northern Ireland » by Cecelia Clegg. She’s not
talking about identity but rather societal
reconciliation after a conflict and in this case a religious conflict
(Protestant versus Catholic).  The
societal reconciliation has to enable a pacific existence between people negotiating
the identity all together around God.

            Seventh chapter is « Towards Reconciliation and Justice in South
Africa: Can Church Unity Make a Difference ? » by Nico Koopman. The
apartheid was lived as a violation of human rights in South Africa. After the
black segregation has been created the
Truth and Reconciliation Commission to support the process of national
reconciliation. Despite the trauma in South Africa, its implication has been
important in the search of truth, justice and reconciliation. However, the
division of Church symbolized the society division while the unity was
essential in the process.

            Eighth chapter is « Korean War: The Origin of the Axis of Evil
in the Korean Peninsula » by Jooseop Keum. Jooseop Keum has a
historical approach to the Korean separation. First, he describes the evolution
of events in Korean Peninsula with the intervention of International Community
with United Nations et how events annihilated reconciliation chances. Moreover,
the Church was divided in the conflict because of the twice ideology but the
occidental vision took the place in the World Council Church who provoked ecclesiastical
tension. The Church has to be unified in the Korean division to hope a
reconciliation.

            Ninth chapter is « Towards Peace and Reconciliation between
South and North Korean Churches : Contextual Analysis of the Two Churches »
by In Soo Kim. He came back to the history of the Church in Korea. Before the
war when the Church was arrived and was unified in the peninsula. Next, he
explains the Church division during the Korean War because of the opposition of
capitalism and communism. He lingers over a tentative of reconciliation the 80s
and maybe a pacific unification full of hope for the future. Despite a lot of
problems like money or freedom for North Church, the actual cooperation let’s
think the best for the future.

            Tenth chapter is « Strategies for Peace and Reunification in
Korea » by Jong-Sun Noh. He proposes different solutions to find peace
in the Korean Peninsula. First the denuclearisation of North Korea. Secondly,
he proposes the North Korea status as a nuclear power and make South Korea as a
nuclear power too to balance.  The last
solution, but not recommended by Jong-Sun Noh, is a American invasion in North
Korea. Moreover, he points the attitude of United States in the recurrent
victimisation of North Korea which doesn’t help to find a solution for Korean
situation. Finally, he supports the idea that « people of faith are trying to bring about reconciliation between the
North and South ».

            The
last chapter is « Reconciliation Possible
? The Churches’ Efforts Toward the Peace and Reunification of North and South
Korea » by Sebastian C.H. Kim. In this chapter he describes some of
the main political encounters between North and South Korea and the Church
efforts for reconciliation. After the war, a lot a suggestion was proposed like
« the easing of tension, various
ways of exchange, cooperating with the work of the Red Cross, establishing a
hotline between leaders, and the formation of the North-South Joint Committee
for unification » but each camp stranded your ground and the
reconciliation was impossible. Numerous talks were engaged but all have been
cut for different reasons. Firstly, Christians from the south were hostile
against people from the north but finally blood relationship get the upper
hand. Was created the « Declaration
of the Korea National Council of the Churches toward the unification and peace
of the Korean people » in 1988, synonyms of hope for reunification but
the way is still full of pitfalls.

 

Do
you find the argument convincing? Justify your answer.

            I’m
completely agree with the necessity of a shared identity for divided
population. For me, the identity enables a population to be together and have
something to share. Moreover, a shared identity reassures people and organise
the society around common culture and tradition. When people are sharing the
same things, they are living in peace because a link is created. Without
sharing with others we become withdrawn and a aggressiveness could appear
against people without the same identity as us and, today, it’s one of the
problem in society like France : communitarianism and rejection of the
difference.

 

 

 Your personal opinion about the book and
whether you would recommand the reading? Justify your answer

            The
book is interesting and gives a position which we see little. However, the
religion is omnipresent and it’s a little disturbing. Sometimes that seems as a
proselytism of Catholic religion. Moreover, I think it miss something important
in the Korean situation. The issue with North Korea are too important for
China, Russia and United States to contemplate a reunification. In the region,
North Korea is the « useful idiot » permitting the stability between Russia,
China and United States. Not one of these states will be well advised to the
reunification of Korea.

            I
recommend the book if we don’t have problem with the considerable presence of
the religion and if we are interesting about the importance of a shared
identity in a process of reconciliation.