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Title: Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Transitional Justice Practices
Author(s): DOORN, Neelke
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 15    Issue: 3   Date: September 2008   
Pages: 381-398
DOI: 10.2143/EP.15.3.2033157

Abstract :
In the last decades, the notions of forgiveness and reconciliation have been applied more and more in the public sphere. This paper claims that forgiveness in transitional justice practices is often difficult if not impossible to achieve, and that it could generate counterproductive processes. It is unclear what ‘collective forgiveness’ is, if it is a realistic concept at all. The expectation of forgiveness seems to generate much resistance, even when former oppressors take up responsibility or show regret. Often past-sensibilities are too strong, and in many victim-groups self-respect is lacking. Moreover, the role of emotions in public (and mediated) settings remains obscure. These complexities raise the question of whether forgiveness is an appropriate ideal to aim at in transitional justice practices, especially when participants are involved in attempts at reconciliation in more or less coercive ways. To give up the ideal of forgiveness, however, does not imply that reconciliation is unattainable. Alternative accounts of reconciliation are presented which do not start from forgiveness. These alternative accounts show that reconciliation is possible, but it seems important for former victims to regain some sense of self-worth and recognition by others first. Only then people can enter into the long process of rebuilding relationships of trust with former wrongdoers.

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