To love the enemy, to resist evil, to welcome the stranger, to first deal with the log in our own eye before the spec in the neighbor’s eye, connect spiritual and emotional phenomenon and practices. Thus, when working with groups, I am listening for the outward manifestations, but also the parallel processes happening within both them and me. What we discover over here, might be the missing peace to the ominous puzzle over or out there and vice versa. Then, a new picture emerges, a new narrative develops, a new story is told and perception and perspectives change. Consequently, the lamb and lion can lie down together.
Conflict transformation is something more than conflict management or conflict resolution. The goal of conflict transformation, as Ron Kraybill explains, “is not only to end or prevent something bad but also to begin something new and good. Transformation asserts the belief that conflict can be a catalyst for deep-rooted, enduring, positive change in individuals, relationships, and the structures of the human community.”
The work of conflict transformation is not the work of putting Band-Aids on the wounds of conflict, or responding to conflict like a fire fighter. This work is about a way of life and the transformation of our culture to a culture of justpeace.
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When Blood and Bones Cry Out contains one of the best explanations of why the circle process has become so important in conflict transformation. The circle is a container for ritual, covenant and conversation. The talking piece allows for all the voices to be heard as it passes around the circle. The stories begin to connect, and natural frequencies are found that have resonance and sonic echo. What if churches, through their rituals and conversations, could develop such resonance and sonic echo? The Lederachs have given us a metaphoric gift that might have profound implications for churches’ role as places of social healing in our communities.
The principles of restorative justice are indeed prophetic ones as they provide a framework for doing the work that God has called us to do with both victims and offenders.
Conflict does not mean we are not Christians. The first apostles argued about what committed Christians often disagree on: goals and methods.
“Difficult conversations involve strong emotions or issues about how I see myself in the world,” Stone said. Strong emotions may come from the values a person has and also may be the result of how “people feel treated in the relationship,” he added. “How we talk to each other may influence emotion.”
The conflict must be named before peace can be attained, according to Porter. Sacred space is created around the “table” so that differences, issues, hurts and needs can be aired clearly and directly to overshadow any hidden agendas, he said. “The lack of naming is in part what causes schism,” he said. “I don’t think we have ever had the opportunity to have the full conversation where people can really name the issues that are between us and get below them.”
On one hand, most of us haven’t been taught that conflict need not be feared or avoided, that it is often needed and healthy for a family or congregation. On the other hand, in a society where winning is everything, we often can’t find alternatives to choosing sides, backbiting, beating the opponent into submission or walking away.