As I write this the EU Referendum is just a week or so away so I don’t yet know the outcome. Due to publishing deadlines the result will have been published by the time you get to read this article, so you do! Although in one respect I am writing in the dark, the opinion polls and pundits are all predicting a close run thing so it is fair to say that a large proportion of the electorate will be disappointed by the outcome.
Despite the early commitment by the politicians to keep the Referendum conversation from becoming personal, it seems that people on both sides resorted to attacking the integrity and wisdom of the other protagonists. As a result there are deep divisions between members in each of the main political parties.
In time no doubt the dust will settle and government will have to get back to the task of doing business with other European leaders regardless of the outcome. In order to do this people who have expended a great deal of emotion against each other will need to work together again as colleagues, and even as friends. This will require reconciliation and forgiveness.
The title of this article is borrowed from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was set up to try and heal the deep divisions in South Africa after the collapse of the apartheid regime. It operates on the philosophy that reconciliation depends on the truth of past hurts being brought out into the open and amnesty being granted to offenders who are willing to be honest about their role in harming others.
Thankfully the divisions, and even hatred, expressed in our society do not run as deep as those in post-apartheid South Africa. So there is hope for the future of the UK. Nevertheless unless these divisions are healed there is potential for them to deepen over time.
On many occasions Jesus spoke about the vital importance of reconciliation in all human relationships. He gave us a number of priorities:
- The need to seek reconciliation is urgent. The bible tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger. We are to seek reconciliation as soon as we are hurt, or realise that we have hurt someone.
- Each of us is responsible for taking the first step towards reconciliation. If we wait for the other person to come to us reconciliation will be delayed, possibly forever.
- The goal is reconciliation rather than vindication. Whether we are right or whether we are wrong it is more important to be reconciled than to apportion blame.
- Reconciliation can only occur once forgiveness has been offered and received. Forgiveness does not ignore the pain but chooses to accept it and to forego any desire for revenge or retribution.
In the prayer Jesus taught we say ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’. Those who wish to be forgiven must be those who forgive others. My prayer is that whatever our future role in Europe we will become a nation of people who will not let any issue divide us but will live in truth and reconciliation with each other.