Editorial: Conflict and Forgiveness

‘Recognising that those in power have sometimes used talk of reconciliation to maintain status and impede efforts towards justice and wholeness, we seek a Communion-wide focus on a renewal of this ministry.’ (Lambeth Call on Reconciliation Statement, 2022)

We intentionally conceptualised the theme of “Conflict and Forgiveness” beyond communal understandings, to also include personal encounters which seek to unveil the richness of multiple contexts towards the shared goals of peace and justice. Our aim in this cycle is to capture young people’s voices on conflict and forgiveness. To establish what it means to them in a world that is still clinging to, longing for, visions for justice, peace, and unity. As YAT, we are convinced that the visions of the world which Christ embodied in his life and ministry are of ongoing relevance and significance today, particularly within contexts of war and conflict. Contexts where key elements in Christianity such as reconciliation and justice have been betrayed by those in power. These essays are therefore not just passive reflections on conflict; they are at the same time spiritual and prophetic acts of hope by young theologians in the Anglican Communion. This cycle is conceived and compiled during a time when the world is infested by war and conflict, a time where the unity of our Communion is threatened by divisions on moral discernment. It is against this backdrop that Dylan Brooks offers us the importance of seeing the truth of the other. In his essay, he warns us against the tyranny of Christian theocracy and invites us to see the truth of the other, especially in times of war and conflict.

We are indeed Christians and Anglicans by choice. We are a part of the one holy, catholic and apostolic faith. We are also human beings living in a world that is confronted by systems of power that locate each of us in varying roles in our many different contexts. These roles often create divisions, conflict, and relational estrangement between us. Reconciliation appears to be the most Christ-like remedy in such a world. However, we need to recognize that there is no reconciliation without justice and accountability. Any reconciliation that rushes to forgiveness without justice renders itself cheap and uncostly – which is very un-Christ-like. This view is offered by Rhine Koloti who does a critical introspection on the Anglican Liturgy on the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Whilst he holds the unifying meaning of the Eucharist, he postulates that the language used in our liturgies may perpetuate further hurt and abuse, especially within the context of rising gender-based violence. Sticking to the pattern of looking at conflicts within our pews, Eva Abel recalls a personal encounter of alienation in the church as a new mother. She reminds us about reconciliation and unity in a context that is hardly attended to in church and scholarship, the issue of inclusion during the liturgy for new mothers. She postulates that, as a church, we need to show solidarity with young mothers in the church when they come to worship. In an interview conducted by our Project Coordinator, Fr. Thomas Sharp, Miranga Peiris from Sri Lanka talks about the “Struggle of Love” in Sri Lanka. He remembers vividly how this struggle resulted in a change of government when he was a seminarian in Colombo, and the impact witnessing those protests had on his experience of Easter. During a plenary session on Reconciliation at the recent Lambeth conference, Ms. Sheran Harper, Worldwide president of the Mothers Union, spoke about what I understood as the call for an ‘Anglican-centred’ witness amidst conflict and injustice, she said: 

“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 [younger] course that brings opportunities for peace, and reconciliation.”

This serves two things; on the one hand, it re-emphasizes the call for reconciliation and forgiveness. On the other hand, it introduces a new way of doing this reconciliatory work. A new way that takes ‘other voices’ seriously in the discourse on conflict and forgiveness. This edition of our cycle is reliant on this simple but demanding call. That when we talk about reconciliation, we ought to listen to every voice towards that unity. We can no longer talk about reconciliation from the top or to the margins or oppressed, but we need to make a radical reconciliation ‘turn’ that comes from the margins, oppressed, victims. This turn is not new but it is a renewal of what was. Historically, young people shaped theological spaces and this needs to be renewed. Today, young people do speak, but the problem is with the constrictions placed on translating their speech through the so-called ‘correct way’ of doing theology, which ignores the dictum that ‘all theology is contextual’. We are hoping that through this publication, more Anglican voices from young people, women in particular, will be heard. To continue the prophetic thread of spirituality that runs through all the contributions to this cycle, I would like to end this editorial with the following reminder: as Anglicans, matters of conflict and reconciliation do not only bind us because of the recent Lambeth call but because of the missio dei found explicitly in the Gospel of John 17:21, “that they may all be one…”

Mr. Rhine Phillip Tsobotsi Koloti, Young Anglican Theology Project Secretary

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