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The Call for National Reconciliation

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by Rev. Victor H. Job Fri, Feb 10. 2012

It cannot be disputed that the General Elections of December 13, 2011, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has left us a bruised, battered and divided people. The political campaign that led up to elections day and the events that followed have been unprecedented in the history of this country. The bitterness, hostility, name-calling and character assassination that were evident in that period continue unabated.{{more}} This does not mean that these conditions did not exist in our country before. Ever since the introduction of adult suffrage in this country, elections were a cause of division, mud-slinging and name-calling, but it was not of the intensity as today as a result of access to the print and electronic media, the cell phone and internet, and other forms of information technology.

However, divisions among our people, whether on a small or large scale, can never be justified much less to be tolerated or allowed to characterise our way of life. I believe that it was with this in mind that after the December 13 elections, the Government instituted the “Ministry of Reconciliation” to bring peace to our country. I believe that this mechanism is a genuine effort on the part of the Government to cease the hostility and to heal the divisions in our nation.

But what is reconciliation? Reconciliation is first and foremost a “theological” word. It comes from a Greek word “katallassein” which is used in the Bible to mean “the change of enmity into friendship.” (Read II Corinthians 5:18-20). The basic meaning of reconciliation, therefore, is the “ending of hostility between two opposing forces or powers; or making peace between unfriendly or estranged parties; or making peace or bringing about goodwill, harmony and justice between opposing parties.” The New Testament has a vision of the world as one of brokenness that needs to be mended, of distance that needs to be bridged, of estrangement that needs to be healed, of conflict that needs to be turned into peace.

Examine this definition of reconciliation and see how aptly it fits the strife-torn, divided, estranged and hostile society in which we live – a society in which people need to experience healing, peace, harmony, understanding, tolerance, friendship and goodwill. Wherever these qualities do not exist, there can be no joy, no happiness, no purpose for living, no incentive to work, no bright future, no motivation to live, to realize oneself and to let others be. Herein lies the urgent need for and our response to this call for reconciliation.

But how can reconciliation be achieved? The Government Ministry of Reconciliation began the process with prayer and worship. This is of great significance, since in all our endeavours we must put God first and seek His guidance and enabling in order to discern the direction in which He wants to lead us. But we must move from prayer to action and allow God to use us to become the answer to our prayers.

In this regard, the next step in this process of reconciliation was made by the Prime Minister, the Hon. Ralph E. Gonsalves, when, during the Budget debate in Parliament in January 2012 he announced that he was going to discontinue court proceedings against the Hon. Arnhim Eustace, Leader of the Opposition, and the Hon. Daniel Cummings. The gesture was timely, appropriate and necessary. It was the beginning of a New Year, when many Vincentians make “New Year resolutions.” The process of reconciliation was going to begin with the leaders of the two main political parties which will signal to the nation that something was about to take place to bring healing to our land. I believe the Prime Minister was genuine when he made the offer as he was later to confirm his genuineness when he said he heard “a still small voice” speak to him. (I Kings 19:12, I Samuel 3:10). God still comes to us in “mysterious ways” and no one of us should stand in His way when He wants to work through us to “perform his wonders.”

We must not be condemnatory of the Hon. Arnhim Eustace because of his apparent refusal to accept the offer of reconciliation. Perhaps he, too, is overwhelmed by the hurts and pain of our divisiveness which so often cloud our judgments and perceptions on matters of human relationships.

We must, therefore, see the offer of the Prime Minister and the response of Mr. Eustace as a call for help in the resolution of a difficult and sensitive political process. Therefore, this is a timely opportunity for the Church to step in and help the process for the national good.

As the ambassador for Christ, the Church has been entrusted with the “ministry” of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:20). Governments can facilitate it, but by themselves they cannot carry it out. The Church has been given the message of reconciliation for a sinful, broken, divided world, and until people (including politicians) hear that message, accept it and are first reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, no meaningful reconciliation can take place. When people make peace with God, it is only then they can make peace with others. I have confidence that reconciliation can be achieved for the mere fact that Dr. Ralph Gonsalves and the Hon. Arnhim Eustace are staunch members of the Church and, therefore, brothers in Christ.

I will, therefore, like to suggest a few ways by which the Church can help the process of reconciliation.

1. We must continue with prayer for peace. God is the author and giver of peace. If we don’t start there, then peace and reconciliation will be an illusive dream.

2. Since reconciliation is a process between two or more parties, then both parties must show a willingness and readiness to work for reconciliation. They must meet each other on equal terms and engage in frank and honest dialogue.

3. There must be a willingness to lay down the “weapon of warfare” – both political weapons and weapons of words. And there must be a cessation in the hostility of words coming from the radio stations on both sides of the political divide. This makes the parties free and open for peace and reconciliation. They must give up that which could otherwise injure, damage or destroy the other. Each side gives up something for the sake of peace and reconciliation. There must be a spirit of compromise since each side will not win all.

4. Then there must be repentance and forgiveness. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Parties must repent of the pain and hurt caused by each other by their words and actions. And there must be a willingness on the part of all parties to forgive and start again. “Old things must be allowed to pass away and the new must take their place (II Cor. 5:17).

5. The process must then be taken to the populace among whom the real divisions exist and where the “pain and hurt” are mostly felt. The people are the real victims and sufferers. The political leaders (including all who hold political office) must be part and parcel of the process, for the people have already taken the cue from the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition who have already set the example.

This is the opportunity for the leaders of the Church – of the various denominations – to come together and be the “Facilitator of Reconciliation” in this moment of great national need. I am aware that reconciliation is a painful process which takes time, but I am also of the firm belief that with the help of God and the commitment of the parties to the process the goal of reconciliation can be achieved.

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