Catholic bishops have urged Edgar Lungu to humble himself and engage in a genuine face-to-face dialogue with Hakainde Hichileme to end tension in the country following the disputed August 2016 elections. But Edgar says Hakainde should first accept the outcome of the August 2016 elections before he could engage in dialogue with him.
Reconciliation and forgiveness are matters of the heart. They cannot be forced on the people. Reconciliation is a decision that you take in your heart. You can’t demand truth and reconciliation. However, if there is to be reconciliation, first there must be truth.
But if the nation is watching, we might as well tell the truth. And the truth is, the church doesn’t offer a cure. It doesn’t offer a quick fix. The church offers death and resurrection. The church offers the messy, inconvenient, gut-wrenching, never-ending work of healing and reconciliation.
The church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sanctification centre, where flawed people place their faith in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he designed.
Reconciliation work is about a profound quest for justice and social transformation. But at the same time, it’s about service, solidarity, about exploring and rediscovering the human spirit that has been lost or shattered through human conflict, cruelty, ignorance and greed.
Arthur Pernhyn Stanley was right to wonder: “Is there no reconciliation of some ancient quarrel, no payment of some long outstanding debt, no courtesy or love or honour to be rendered to those to whom it has long been due; no charitable, humble, kind, useful deed, by which you can promote the glory of God, or goodwill among men, or peace upon earth? If there be any such, I beseech you, in God’s name, in Christ’s name, go and do it.”
Clearly, reconciliation is not based on the fact that one of the characters opens his eyes and says, ‘Oh, brother! Oh, sister! How terrible I was! How right and wonderful you were! Please forgive me! Let’s hug and love each other from now until the rest of eternity!’ This is not the kind of reconciliation we are writing about; we are writing about sad, sober, sometimes heart-breaking compromises.
When we face problems or disagreements today, we have to arrive at solutions through dialogue. Dialogue is the only appropriate method. One-sided victory is no longer acceptable. We must work to resolve conflicts in a spirit of reconciliation, always keeping others’ interests in mind.
Reconciliation is a deep practice that we can do with our listening and our mindful speech. To reconcile means to bring peace and happiness to people. In order to reconcile, you have to possess the art of deep listening. And as Desmond Tutu put it, “Being reconciled to our enemies is not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end, only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing…True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness which is costly. Forgiveness in turn depends on repentance, which has to be based on an acknowledgment of what was done wrong, and therefore on disclosure of the truth. You cannot forgive what you do not know.”
The thing is, you cannot ask people to coexist by having one side bow their heads and rely on a solution that is only good for the other side. What you can do is stop blaming each other and engage in dialogue with one person at a time. Everyone knows that violence begets violence and breeds more hatred. There’s need to find our way together. We have to support truth and reconciliation and some form of justice.
The purpose of reconciliation is to avoid the filibuster. The filibuster is an effort to talk something to death. Reconciliation should be accompanied by justice, otherwise it will not last. While we all hope for peace, it shouldn’t be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice.
Reconciliation is a part of the healing process, but how can there be healing when the wounds are still being inflicted? The critical element is inclusiveness. By this we mean justice and fairness in the administration of the public order Act, the criminal justice system and the electoral processes. Only when the model we adopt and implement is accepted by all can the prospect of genuine and lasting reconciliation be real.
The basis of a peaceful nation is an honest, transparent, efficient, effective and orderly government in which all participate and have public confidence. And that confidence is endangered when ethical standards falter or appear to falter. We remain convinced that most of the political differences or conflicts we have today can be solved through genuine dialogue conducted with a spirit of openness and reconciliation.
But the problem we have is that these differences are not small; they are not about ego or lack of humility. They are about power and wealth. It’s the fear of losing power and wealth that is making these differences appear irreconcilable. For power and money, some people are ready to kill and fight to the bitter end. Reconciliation leads to compromises – give and take. Those whose hold on power is fragile are scared of compromises and concessions because it may lead to their complete loss of power and the gigantic wealth that go with it. It’s not surprising that the first demand or condition coming from Edgar is about Hakainde recognising him as the winner of last year’s elections. This doesn’t seem to have a legal basis. But it’s the most important thing for Edgar because with that, all he wants will be secured, will be given to him. But will Edgar be ready to move on the administration of public order Act, the criminal justice system, the electoral processes and other governance issues that will help remove or reduce political tension in the country?
Good men and women must be mobilised to ensure that Zambia is once again united and that the spirit of reconciliation is promoted. Perhaps one day, all these conflicts, tensions and divisions will end, and it won’t be because of great politicians or bishops, it’ll be because people have changed.
It’s clear that all this drama, tension and repression is about Edgar being recognised by Hakainde as the winner of last year’s elections. And this is where reconciliation lies. But as J.K. Rowling said, “If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent, simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed the line to stand alongside tyrants.”