(Reprinted with permission from Military Review, published by Department of the Army Headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, written by Andrea Crunkhorn.)

Violence that ends without reconciliation will not lead to permanent peace. Religious organizations, rooted in local traditions and culture, offer the greatest hope for reconciliation between warring factions. The pivotal roles for external organizations are identifying the credible religious organizations and training them as national mediators in conflict transformation and reconciliation.

Reconciliation is the end point of a process of finding facts, identifying perpetrators, paying reparations, healing memories and offering and accepting forgiveness. Religious activists are committed to peace and reconciliation with enemies. Religious extremists are committed to reconciliation’s defeat by any means.

In The Ambivalence of the Sacred, R. Scott Appleby expands the definitions associated with religious organizations and clarifies the roles they play in national politics, conflict and peace. Because they are already part of the community, religious organizations have great credibility and legitimacy in conflict transformation. Their roles in reconciliation include conflict resolution, conflict management and structural reformation. But they also must translate the religious language of reconciliation into a human-rights discourse and a broad picture of hope and peace that appeal to all sides.

Appleby thoroughly supports his thesis. He establishes clear definitions, argues powerfully for reconciliation and clearly delineates the legitimacy that religious activists who pursue it already enjoy.

Military professionals work with crises around the globe, including those that involve centuries of conflict. Interposing armed forces between factions will not solve the conflict. Military professionals must address root causes and move toward a vision of the future. While military professionals will never have the credibility to foster reconciliation that community-based religious organizations have, they can facilitate the process. Therefore, they should understand how vital reconciliation is, how it occurs and which actors might best bring it about.

Andrea Crunkhorn is an officer in the United States Army. Reprinted with permission from Military Review, published by Department of the Army Headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

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