Reconciliaiton

Seeing the Other Sides

The term reconciliation carries such a chord of optimism; it conjures images of issues resolved and friendships re-established. But it’s usually wrenching work.

It can also be painful, yet cathartic, to watch. A Washington, D.C.-based organization called Search for Common Ground wanted to demonstrate creative ways of resolving conflict, and they did so through a creative medium: film. The organization held its first film festival in October with eight powerful documentaries that address themes of conflict resolution and reconciliation.

The films range in style, length, and structure, but their cumulative effect forces us to see all the angles of conflict. Not only do we watch others navigate the hard path of forgiveness, history, and truth, we have to wonder ourselves about the nature of reconciliation: What is it really? Where does it take place? The films move viewers beyond viewing to dialogue, one of the festival’s goals.

The films will travel for one year to universities and colleges throughout the country as part of Search for Common Ground’s mission to promote peaceful, cooperative approaches to conflict resolution. In May, the European Centre for Common Ground in Brussels will host the film festival, after which the films will travel to European universities and international organizations. For more information and a listing of colleges that will host the film series, see www. sfcg.org.

Long Night’s Journey into Day: South Africa’s Search for Truth and Reconciliation, directed by Frances Reid and Deborah Hoffman. The 94-minute documentary looks at four groups of people making their way through the truth and reconciliation process, including the family of Amy Biehl. The film won best documentary at the 2000 Sundance Festival. (Iris Film/Cinemax Reel Life, 2000)

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2002
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Spiritual Reconstruction in Kosovo

Pristina, Kosovo—At the Macedonia-Kosovo border, kids on the roadside are selling Coke and fresh brown eggs. They are swept with a metal detector every time they cross the invisible line between countries. Their arms-up gesture is automatic. The raised shoulders next to the road are covered with wild flowers—blue chicory, yellow lupines, bull thistles—and land mines. Men swing scythes through grain and hay. Where the fields are not yet clear of mines, farmers send in the cattle first. German soldiers lounge on tanks, casually pointing anti-rocket guns at the sky. The houses are pockmarked with bullets and small mortar fire. The roofs are burned off.

We meet Terry Heselius at the Mercy Corps office in Pristina. Mercy Corps began working there in 1993. Heselius’ first project in the region was to deliver 40 tons of flour from Budapest to Pristina. The trucks had to go to Supotisa, Novi Sad, Belgrade, Nis, and finally Pristina. After the first convoy, Mercy Corps sent 250 tons per week. Every one of the trucks was prayed over. Theirs was the only relief agency that managed to get trucks through.

According to Heselius, Kosovar president Ibrahim Rugova is the region’s only hope. Rugova once asked Heselius what the answer was for Kosovo. Heselius quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14. "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."

This kind of conversion does three things—it lifts hearts and combats despair, it teaches forgiveness, and it undercuts propaganda and fear. Economic and political reconstruction is essential in Kosovo, but it must be built on a foundation of spiritual reconstruction.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1999
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Gospel Proof

Hindus can produce as many miracles as any Christian miracle worker. Islamic saints in India can produce and duplicate every miracle that has been produced by Christians. But they cannot duplicate the miracle of black and white together, of racial injustice being swept away by the power of the gospel. Our credibility is at stake. If we are not able to establish our credibility in this area, we have not got the whole gospel. In fact we have not got a proper gospel at all. -Vinay Samuel, at the Lausanne II Conference on World Evangelism, 1989

Over the years of our public ministry together, Spencer Perkins repeated this quote dozens and dozens of times all over the nation. His legacy is that the miracle of "black and white together" with "racial injustice swept away" took on flesh and blood in his own life.

"Black and white together," "racial injustice swept away" wasn't about some kind of harmonious, integrated American society. Spencer's expectations for America were low; the national creed didn't ask that much of its citizens. But the standards for kingdom citizens were different—their Master required everything.

Igniting Spencer's vision was a great evangelistic sermo—one that was not preached, but demonstrated. In the daily life of several thousand believers in first-century Jerusalem, a miracle of togetherness and justice swept away social barriers. "All the believers were together and had all things in common" (Acts 2:44). "There were no needy persons among them." (Acts 4:34). The witness was simple, but the result was extraordinary: "And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47).

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1998
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