- Relating to otherness is crucial in the journey towards reconciliation: without a willingness to acknowledge and relate to the ‘other’ (person, idea, concept, way of believing) there can be no reconciliation. This extract reflects on how one can reject the ‘other’ by rejecting the other’s right to be recognized as a human being. In a similar way, the other’s way of thinking and believing can be rejected by regarding it as inferior.
- The present conflicts in Syria, Egypt, Sudan and the Central African Republic arise from complex backgrounds but they all display a rejection of the ‘other’ who thinks, prays, looks or acts differently. This extract from ‘Reconciling One and All – God’s Gift to the World’ examines this tendency to reject and exclude which can have catastrophic results.
- There are a number of ways of embracing the other, but the one which appears to be prevalent in society is dichotomy or opposition which brings with it a deep suspicion of the other. Perhaps embracing the other through dichotomy is best illustrated through the adversarial system of British politics.
Being able to relate to the other (that which, or the person who, is totally different from us) is vitally important for reconciliation. Yet, as I indicated last month, too often the other is excluded, dehumanized and demonized. For there to be reconciliation the other needs to be heard and embraced, even if we do not agree with it. What does it mean to embrace the other?
- Embracing the other is important for our political and social well-being as well as for our spiritual health. Yet too often the other is excluded, dehumanized and demonized. This attitude lies behind so much of the fearfulness encountered in contemporary society, whether it is fear of other ideas, other cultures and faiths and even fear of what lies deep within ourselves.
- Reconciliation is not possible unless there is an embracing of the ‘other’ - the other person, the other idea, the otherness of ourselves, the otherness of God. The other is the one outside of ourselves. The fact that human beings can stretch beyond themselves in this way differentiates them from animals.
- The Church is a community which is both forgiven and in the process of being forgiven and it is called to reflect this reality to the world. In a society which permits everything but forgives nothing, the Church has a particularly daunting task to combat the fear which comes from not recognising one’s forgiven-ness.
- Is forgiveness dependent upon our being sorry and showing remorse? When we do say sorry, is it primarily for the sake of the person we have wronged or is it for our sake?
- The father in one of the most famous stories in the New Testament and the father in Northern Ireland whose daughter died, buried beneath rubble and holding her father’s hand, are challenging and harrowing examples of forgiveness leading to reconciliation.