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  • Eliza Sims

My Thoughts on Reconciliation: Before and After Starting this Project

The word reconciliation, or to reconcile, was not a part of my vocabulary before I started working on this project just three months ago. Of course, I knew what the word meant- or at least what I thought the word meant. When I applied for this internship, I asked myself what reconciliation is. Immediately I thought of resolving an argument. For example, a friend and I got into a fight last night and we need to reconcile before her birthday party. To me reconciliation was fancy synonym for ‘to resolve.’

What is great about this project is getting the chance to really dissect and understand a heavy concept to its skeleton. Concepts like reconciliation entail so much more than just ‘to resolve,’ and my research demonstrated this to me. My research focused on Northern Ireland, so I was expecting organizations trying to reconcile relations between Catholics and Protestants based on my knowledge of Irish history. This was an accurate assumption; however, these projects encompass so much more. After three months of research these are the things I have learned about reconciliation:

Firstly, how do we reconcile? What does this mean for both parties, and does this even affect both parties? Reconciliation doesn’t have to be bilateral like I previously believed. Conflict does not affect both parties equally and it can affect multiple parties.

Secondly, reconciliation does not necessarily mean returning to a previous state, this is almost never true. If a conflict has occurred that requires a form of reconciliation it is because the previous state of life was not suitable. Humanitarian aid does not go into communities to keep life the way it was, and conflicts don’t happen to keep life the way it was before either. Reconciliation requires change.

Finally, reconciliation is not achieved, but rather a constant state that communities are trying to achieve- a state of peace ideally. Working to create reconciliation is just as important as maintaining reconciliation.

Reconciliation is an important, but underrated concept in politics and international relations. The media focuses on ‘current’ conflicts going on but fails to report on how communities are healing years or decades afterward. Considering reconciliation can change the perception of politics, humanitarian aid, human rights, peace, etc. What is exciting about this project is getting the opportunity to help open people’s eyes to reconciliation and that, I believe, is significance.

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