Review of “Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians” of John Paul Lederach

Since I got involved with peace studies, peace education and training on conflict prevention, several times I came across the name of John Paul Lederach, an international peace practitioner, scholar and mediator. Various books and articles on peacebuilding make references to his work. Different concepts and approaches about conflict analyses elaborated by him are explained and used for getting a better understanding of conflicts. When other scholars were still preoccupied by topics like “conflict resolution”, “conflict regulation” and “conflict management”, Lederach promoted the approach of “conflict transformation”. Meanwhile this approach is adopted by well-known international Peace Institutes, by researchers and grass root workers in the peacebuilding areas.

A few years ago, Lederach wrote the book “The journey toward reconciliation” in order to deepen the understanding on social reconciliation by using and actualising different scripture readings. Now, a few weeks ago, I found his recent book “Reconcile”. In reading through it, I discovered a quite different style of presentation. Lederach writes much more from his own experience as practitioner at grassroots level in Africa, Asia and Latin America, as well as being a member of the Mennonite church. He makes a straightforward link between the scriptural view of reconciliation and practical steps for transforming conflict. The following themes are presented in “Reconcile”: “Threat to my only child” (p.17); “Turning toward the Face of God: Jacob and Esau” (P.29); “The reconciliation arts: Jesus” (p.45); “In the beginning was conflict: Creation” (p.61); “When conflict burns and we cry for help: The Psalms” (p.69); “Truth, Mercy, Justice and Peace: Psalm 85” (p.83); “Where two or three meet: Matthew 18 (p.93); “Keep silent and listen: Acts 15” (p.109); “Reconciliation Is the Gospel: Paul’s Letters” (p.125).

While I was reading the book, I found that its contents were engaging me in the process of reconciliation. It’s not what the others have to do to reconcile and to be reconciled. The author shares his experience with me the reader: I’m questioned; I’m encouraged to move on to personal change and transformation. The subtitle of the book mentions already this dimension: “Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians”.

At the end of the book, some very practical invitations to action are added, for example “me, my enemy and how I can work on my perception about this enemy” (p.181). The book provides also very practical resources and tools for better understanding of interpersonal conflicts, church conflicts and global conflicts.

Being aware of and confronted by the fractured and divided world, J.P. Lederach transmits throughout the profoundly moving and inspiring book his Christian and prophetic hope and the conviction that: “We have to keep our feet on the ground, connected to the challenge of current realities, and we need our head in the clouds, with the capacity to live into a new reality of more just, equitable, and peaceful relationships” (p.26).

This biblically grounded and thoroughly practical book “Reconcile” can help each of us to promote reconciliation through our various apostolates. This would be a further concrete step to realise and practice the wish of the last chapter to promote reconciliation in the changing African world (Capitular Acts, p.72).

John Paul Lederach “Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians”, Herald Press, 2014.

Please take the opportunity to read it!

Andreas Göpfert – JPIC and ED Coordinator

Further readings:

  • Lederach John Paul “The journey toward reconciliation”, Herald Press, 1999.
  • Lederach John Paul “Little Book of Conflict Transformation”, Good Books, 2003.
  • Schreiter Robert “The ministry of reconciliation”, Orbis Books, 1998.
  • Caritas Internationalis “Working for Reconciliation”, Caritas Handbook, Vatican, 2001.


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