In recent years, Christians from a variety of denominations who are active in peacemaking and reconciliation ministries have started to share resources to enhance the growing reconciliation movement. About 300 Christians from around the world, including hot spots such as Rwanda, Croatia, and Northern Ireland, gathered for Reconciliation '97, held at Coventry Cathedral in England. Raleigh Washington, an African-American Promise Keepers leader from Chicago, told the group, "Change will only happen as we come together as one. I have a new dream that churches around the world will come together in unifying love."

Former South African President F. W. De Klerk, whose government supported the apartheid system, shows how far reconciliation efforts have come in the 1990s. De Klerk appealed to the victims of discriminatory policies to "find it in their hearts to forgive us." De Klerk said most Christians have failed to carry out Jesus' commandment of forgiveness. "Until we truly forgive our enemies we carry within our hearts a bitterness, which can poison every other aspect of our lives."

Johnson Philip Mlambo, a former Pan African Congress deputy who spent 20 years in prison with current South African President Nelson Mandela, experienced reconciliation firsthand. "It is important to me to be here, because some of the bad things that happened in our country happened in the name of religion," Mlambo said. "This has deepened my commitment to the worth of the human being."

The roots of the reconciliation ministry at the cathedral date to World War II when Nazi bombs caused heavy damage. During the cathedral's restoration, nails were collected and wired together in the shape of a cross and sent to Christians in Germany as an act of friendship.

FRESH METHODS: As Christian leaders have examined the process of reconciliation, they have developed new techniques to bridge the divide between hostile groups, in part by identifying the underlying issues.

In Australia, for example, land use and ownership has long been a contentious issue between aboriginal and white Australians. Mal Garvin, director of Fusion Australia Ministries and AD2000 Australia, noted aboriginals are reflective of "wounded indigenous people all around the globe who've not yet been invited to the table. Until they are, world evangelization won't happen."

Likewise, Youth With a Mission England director Lynn Green reported how Reconciliation Walks throughout the Middle East (CT, Oct. 7, 1996, p. 90) are leading Christians and Muslims to re-examine the source of their conflicts.

"We're taking the message of apology for the atrocities of the Crusades, where Christians are saying to Muslims, 'I'm sorry for the misrepresentation of Jesus that happened 900 years ago.' "

"We Christians have a terrible lot to be ashamed of on this continent, turning ideology into virtual religion," Coventry Cathedral Canon Paul Oestreicher said. "The fall of communism has not meant the rise of Christianity."

In studying the divisions between Protestants and Roman Catholics, David Porter, cofounder and director of Evangelical Contribution of Northern Ireland, came to realize, "There will not be real reconciliation unless there is deep repentance and forgiveness on both sides" (CT, Oct. 6, 1997, p. 74).

In many cases, reconciliation efforts by Christians are not instigated until violence and bloodshed have taken a toll. However, Peacemakers of Canada in Quebec is working to resolve ongoing political conflicts before things get out of hand. Rudy Pohl, director of the group, said, "We are heading into an unavoidable conflict in Canada that has all the marks of Northern Ireland."

One issue debated among the leaders was how to move beyond rebuilding with bricks and mortar to rebuilding relationships between deeply divided groups. Antoine Rutayisire, a Rwandan team leader with African Enterprise, called Christians to persevere in their efforts. "We can rebuild houses and buildings, but if we don't have healing and repentance, it's not the same," he said.

SECOND THOUGHTS? Although many leading Christian groups were represented at Reconciliation '97, official Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) involvement had been withdrawn.

Initially, SBC sponsors supported the international gathering. However, with organizational shifts recently finalized (see p. 96) creating the North American Mission Board (NAMB), incoming board member William Streich advised leaders to reconsider their Reconciliation '97 involvement and "to nullify a move in a very dangerous direction."

In a memo, Streich expressed concern that "Southern Baptists are giving credibility to the teaching of the apostate Catholic church by its association with it in Coventry." Streich's memo cited a June SBC resolution on ecumenism that "such efforts not commit Southern Baptists to any organizational or long-term relationship which would risk compromise of historic distinctives or the unique witness of Southern Baptists in the world."

Priest Frank Ruff, an advocate for improved Catholic/Baptist relations and a conference workshop leader, believes Streich represents a minority view. "At Southern Baptist conventions I hear all the time how most Baptists don't want to be isolated," he said.

Reid Hardin, conference organizer and a retired director of lay renewal for the SBC, said, "The problem too often has been that we only know each other by our theology rather than as people."

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