Mission

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Recent studies have emphasized that particular factors like culture, religion, collective memory, and local traditions play an important role for the evolution of conflict and peace. Besides the focus on particular factors and traditions, universal aspects can be found in all conflicts and peace-building processes, by means of a comparison between different countries or regions. Moreover, cultures are no closed entities. Colonialism, migration, and various forms of economic commerce have created a reality in which different cultures live together and new trans-cultural identities have emerged. The complexity of conflicts calls for new methods of interdisciplinary Research, which is seen not as mere addition of results from different fields of study but as a productive effort to reformulate one's own approach in the light of other approaches, in order to find a common ground.

There is a growing need in Reconciliation Studies for:

  • a comparative perspective,
  • a trans-cultural and not merely multicultural perspective, and
  • a trans-disciplinary perspective.

These three perspectives determine the approach of the JCRS.


Concept

The concept of reconciliation functions on several levels. It relates to the non-violent settlement or resolution of conflicts but also to the holistic restoration of social relations and the healing of hearts and minds. In addition, the issue of social rights has been highlighted, especially by scholars in the developing countries.

The approach of the JRCS is based on the Hölderlin-perspective. The German poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843) wrote at the end of his novel Hyperion: "Reconciliation is in the middle of strife and everything apart finds each other again" (Friedrich Hölderlin, Sämtliche Werke und Briefe, vol. 1. Darmstadt 1998, 760). This perspective is the antithesis to a widespread notion in political science, where reconciliation is seen as an event that occurs only after the end of the conflict. It pays attention to those elements in a conflict that speak for, and potentially lead towards, reconciliation: groups or individuals who disagree with the conflict, common laws and customs, moments of economic cooperation, common feelings, correlations of acting and reacting, etc.

A similar perspective is found in 20th century Protestant Theology. Human attempts at reconciliation try to mirror, in a limited way, God's act of reconciliation. Karl Barth's doctrine of reconciliation (Church Dogmatics, vol. IV), and Jürgen Moltmann's theology of hope are two representatives of this view. Moltmann writes: "God's peace already rules in the depth of the paralyzing and often deadly conflicts between peoples" (Jürgen Moltmann, Ethik der Hoffnung. Gütersloh 2010, 265).

We are particularly interested in exploring how these elements develop during a conflict. What role do people, who never wanted the conflict to become violent, play in a peace process?

Other questions are: Is there a better quality of peace because people who are not interested in the escalation of conflicts can foster reconciliation?

Or, is the opposite correct, since the systemic changes brought about in this way are too small?

The complex interplay between reconciliation and religion has received renewed attention in various academic fields. For example, to what extent do religions contribute to peace-building and reconciliation? Here, the close relation between justice and reconciliation needs to be discussed: the term "justice" or "righteousness" translates the Hebrew word "shalom" as well as the Greek "eirene" and the Arabic "salam." In each case the word implies a holistic view of restored relationship and reconciliation, either among human beings or between a human community and God, is included in the word.


Objective

Since their beginnings in the 1960s, Peace and Reconciliation Studies have been shaped by the combination of non-governmental peace work in the field and theoretical reflection. The JCRS promotes an interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary approach that integrates the fields of Theology, Philosophy, Religious Science, Ethics, Psychology, Sociology, Political Science, Economics, Law, Media Studies, Art, and History.

Our five Summer Schools on "Societies in Transition" (2009, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015) explored the transnational work of Truth Commissions in Latin America, South Africa, and East Asia as well as the Former Soviet Union&East Central Europe and the Balkans& the Caucasus. These commissions are based on the conviction that the dialogue between the affected parties of a conflict and the idea of shared truth, fostered by the tool of "truth telling", are crucial for the goal of reconciliation. During the next three years, Jena is also the center of the trilateral project "Hearts of Flesh - Not Stone" sponsored by the German Science Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft - DFG), which raises the question how empathy with "the Other" is possible, individually or collectively, even in the middle of a protracted conflict such as in Israel/Palestine.