Don't be fooled. While this book is fiction, the people and stories that have inspired it are not. For years, Jim Baton has walked the streets of Indonesia and loved as neighbors the characters he so poignantly describes. The Batons have positioned themselves strategically as a bridge between groups in conflict, and they have faithfully pointed to Jesus as the way to true peace.
In the words of Dr. Rick Love, President of Peace Catalyst International, this is not just a story about Muslims and Christians in conflict in Indonesia. Rick writes:
It’s also a story about us, whether Christian or Muslim. It challenges us to look at the truths about ourselves, about the prejudices, ignorance and anger that are in each of us, and that, if left untouched by God’s love, can spill out to ravage nations, communities and families. Yet there is hope. God can and does change hearts, as Baton so beautifully testifies to in this warm and uplifting story.
Below, enjoy Jim's thoughts on reconciliation and conflict resolution!
The Necessity of Reconciliation in Conflict Resolution
By Jim Baton
Living in the world’s largest Muslim nation, which also has a significant Christian population, affords me many opportunities to see interfaith conflict firsthand, as well as attempts at interfaith conflict resolution. Seemingly small issues like a church’s unsuccessful pursuit of a building permit can quickly escalate into riots, violence and even murder. In other cases, entire villages have been burned to the ground and many killed by both sides retaliating to an offense from the other. Too often law and order have been restored by a powerful outside party (the police or military) without ever dealing thoroughly with the root causes of the conflict, making it almost certain that the next wind of offense will fan those simmering coals back into a raging inferno.
Why does it seem we’re in a never ending cycle of offense—reaction—revenge? And how can we break the cycle permanently?
Counselors Barry and Lori Byrne write about this subject in the context of marriage, but the same holds true for any relationship between two people or two groups of people:
There is a difference between reconciliation and conflict resolution. In the reconciliation process with a spouse, we are simply and fully acknowledging the way that we have hurt or wronged our spouse. Reconciliation repairs wounded hearts; it does not solve problems. Conflict resolution is the process of coming to agreement and making decisions together. If a couple cannot agree on where to go and how much to spend on summer vacation, that is a conflict resolution issue. It requires a solution. It is best to reconcile any hurts and restore a heart connection before trying to work through conflict. (Love After Marriage, Regal 2012, p.115)
How difficult it is to get two parties to sit at the negotiating table and reach an agreed upon solution to conflict (eg. Israel and Palestine)! Perhaps the failure lies in our desire to jump to Step 2 (conflict resolution) before adequately fulfilling Step 1 (reconciliation).
A peacemaking effort that I have supported financially in the past is Musalaha. One activity they do (which I love) is taking Palestinian Muslims, Palestinian Christians, and Jews on camping trips into the desert. Each person’s tentmate is from a different religion. The first few days all they do is listen to each other tell their stories of pain and injustice. Meanwhile, they have to rely on each other to do menial tasks together like preparing food and shelter, etc. By the end of the week, many are able to weep over the other person’s pain, and some offer apologies on behalf of their group who acted unjustly. When they return home, they are ready to begin joint efforts to combat injustice and build a more unified society.
In our own peacemaking work, we emphasize the spiritual connection between us that occurs when we humbly approach God together as His needy children in prayer. Many times we have witnessed Christians and Muslims after praying together, humbling themselves before each other confessing their own prejudice and the judgments, hatred and injustice inflicted by their group upon the other. This spiritual bond that is formed between them is stronger than the differences in culture, theology or ethnicity. Upon this foundation our Muslim and Christian Peace Generation volunteers can authentically teach and model the peace curriculum we take into junior highs, high schools and universities.
We all want to see peace—peace depends on solutions to move forward together—which depends on conflicts being resolved—which depends on reconciliation happening between people—which depends on someone being willing to move toward the offender (or someone representing the offending group), setting aside the offense for a moment, to truly listen and understand the person’s heart. This is the true starting line in the marathon race for peace.
[Watch for Part 2 of this topic in December at www.jimbaton.com.]