The other day we held one of our regular Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANiSA) discussion groups. We began to tackle the book entitled Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing written by the co-directors of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke University, Chris Rice and Emmanuel Katongole.
We began to talk about the title of the book. What is reconciliation? Do we need to reconcile all things? Is this realistic within the South African context? Is it realistic in general?
Is reconciliation realistic? A story that was told about a group that came together for a training event to explore themes of ecology and faith. As part of the process, this group underwent an intensive time together, working to build trust with one another so that they would be able and ready to delve into topics that waited to be explored. Building trust in this group was, at first, particularly difficult. The group was racially mixed, bringing together people who had particular assumptions about the other racial groups. This group, however, ended up coming together like no other group had as they broke down the barriers and assumptions that had been constructed and learnt about one another, about each other’s story, and ultimately gained a level of trust for one another.
Is this relationship, this trust, sustainable? This is a valid question. After such a workshop the participants will head back to their different contexts and re-integrate into the community they left; the same community that continues to hold the assumptions that they too held before coming together for this training. Is reconciliation realistic given that people will return and reintegrate into the contexts that continue the life inherited within an unjust context and system, which continues to be socially, racially, and economically segregated? Will the participants of this training event, where racial barriers were broken down, continue to feel part of the reconciled community when they head back to their given context?