Reconciliation requires justice, accountability and self-examination, say bishops

Bishops at the Lambeth Conference stood to express their commitment to justice, accountability and prayer in a discussion on a Call on Reconciliation.

Stories of conflict, oppression and fractured communities were told during a plenary session, where delegates heard how the ministry of reconciliation had brought hope to communities around the world.

Speaking ahead of the bishops’ discussion of the Call, The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town, urged the Anglican Communion to work for reconciliation, drawing parallels with the experience in the Church of South Africa under apartheid. He said: “If black Anglicans in South Africa were to say ‘the minority Government is mainly white and is oppressing the majority, the black South Africans so let’s split and form a black Anglican Church’ we would have been poorer [but] we stuck together. I hope we will not fight each other off, but continue wrestling with one another as we move forward until we find a godly solution.”

At the Plenary, The Most Revd Carlos Matsinhe, Primate of Igreja Anglicana de Moçambique e Angola spoke in Portuguese about reconciliation work in Mozambique against a `backdrop of occupation and colonisation’. He described the 16 year civil war which had killed more than a million people and displaced half the population. Apartheid and terrorism followed, killing more than 3,000 and displacing more than 850,000 people.

But, he said, the story of the ‘disarmament, demobilisation, and reintegration’ process of members of the RENAMO military junta gave cause for hope – more than 5,000 members of this group were reintegrated into their families and communities in a process of peacebuilding and reconciliation.

He concluded that the gospel messages of reconciliation and love, together with the work of civil society groups, human rights institutions and goodwill agencies remained the main sources of resilience, strength and hope for a reconciled world.

Sheran Harper, Worldwide president of the Mothers Union, relayed a story from the Province of Formosa, where the women of the local Mothers’ Union had helped to bring peace to a community where the politicians and local leaders could not. This began with prayer – with a large group of women arriving at a police station to pray for the work of the police.

“The perspective of women and families is clear in these stories and important in fractured world. We are all called and equipped by God to work together, have the necessary dialogue, and promote a culture of peace and hope which is transformative,” she said.

“In dark moments they pray deeply, seeking the light, humility and forgiveness, a gift that only Christ can give. They go to extremes, serving as advocates for conflict prevention, reconciliation, and peace-building in order to protect the most vulnerable and those at risk.

“My friends, in a world that is divided, conflicted and hurting, it’s more important than ever for us to learn how to handle conflict and disagreement – put the process of reconciliation into action, and embrace the new course that brings opportunities for peace, and reconciliation.”

Finally the Plenary heard from The Rt Revd Pradeep Samantaroy, Amritsar, united Church of North India who spoke of the impact of the apology given by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, on the 100th anniversary of the Amritsar massacre. “Reconciliation is part of our identity,” he said. “We are ambassadors for Christ, partners to engage in the ministry of reconciliation.”

Drawing on the inspiring work of many Anglican churches’ work in “truth telling, reckoning and racial healing,” the Call invites each Province of the Communion to “self-examination and reflection, listening respectfully to the experiences of those who have historically been, and continue to be, marginalised in their contexts and in their church.”

It notes that differences embodied in the Anglican Communion can both challenge and deepen our experience of God in the other.

It also asks for work “deconstructing the historic legacy of colonialism and continued complicity in British and American empire, as we recognise the centrality of justice and accountability in God’s reconciliation.”


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