Sunday, December 18, 2005

Reintegration & Reconciliation - Ancient, Spiritual, Creative & Tribal Approaches

I'm working on an article on dealing with abusers in our midst. I've looked around the web to see what others are saying, and I see too many airy-fairy, well intentioned articles on the theme of "We should all work together" that do not, in fact, offer practicle advice on how to do just that. So with that in mind, I've been reading and thinking and I've just sent this letter off to some friends (people on a short of list of what I call "Practicle Pagans") for their advice on same. Much of what is said here will be developed more fully and worked into the article.

The reading I mention below comes directly from a very interesting lunch I had the other day with Rowan Fairgrove. It was she who pointed me in the direction of child soldiers in Africa and who suggest the use of the term "reintegration".



Dear ---,

I have been doing some reading on child soldiers, specifically how groups like Unicef are working to reintegrate them back into society, a process made more difficult by the fact that the village life they knew before often no longer exists. I started this reading when I wondered how Pagans - who have no formal concept of either forgiveness and reconciliation - deal with abusers in their midst. This is made even more difficult as we have no community, agreed upon doctrine, or governing bodies, and too few functional, working clans or tribes. Often as not, we Pagans did not grow up with healthy models of dealing with conflict, and many tend to avoid it, overall. What I teach my own students is based on the Spiral Steps, which involve making amends and seeking balance. These steps are focused (I think rightly) on the willingness of the abuser to make amends to the abused, and to come to terms with their own feelings of shame and guilt. Since this level of awareness and regret is rare in many cases, protecting against abusers who either in denial or in hiding comes down to shunning of these abusers by those previously harmed and discreet warnings by those in the know to those who need to know. Of course, the abusers can then always find another victim, which (baring a lunch mob, group coercion or the intervention of a canny elder) they often tend to do. Since dispensing justice is not in my power, it became interesting to me how a group of rampant individualists could choose to act to protect themselves and others when they lack the traditional hierarcharies and formats for doing same. Even as an unimportant fish in a very tiny pond, I still sometimes need to decide just what my ethical duties are in such cases, and just where I should (and should not) meddle. It was at that point my thinking moved from ideas of western justice to more traditional forms of reconciliation. (1) In any case, I thought this information on integration might also interest ....(snip rest of letter).

As always,


(1) Years ago I developed short, simple rituals for use by those who needed to speak their truth and let go to get past abuse, but who could not, for whatever reason, directly face their abusers. If you ever wish for a description of same, let me know.


I (This paper was useful)
Violence, Reconciliation and Identity
The Reintegration of Lord's Resistance Army Child Abductees in Northern Uganda


Rather than being a top down process taken by religious leaders, mobilising reintegration and reconciliation seems to stem from individuals and communities themselves. Its roots lie in a Christian doctrine of forgiveness, in traditional Acholi cultural beliefs around spirituality, cleansing and social healing and in a political will to move beyond the personal and cultural destruction caused by conflict.

Communities have a number of rituals, which can rid the child of the cenand restore peace to him or her. These ceremonies are intertwined with the language of forgiveness, healing and restoration. One specific ritual, referred to locally as ‘the breaking of eggs, ‘communities and youth frequently referred to is utilised to acknowledge children’s physical and spiritual absence, return and cleansing. In this ceremony, the child walks on a path and is required to step on and break some eggs. Towards the end of the ceremony, the child walks through the door of the house, at which point water is poured over his or her head. By the time the child has completed the ritual process, the broken eggs are left behind and the child emerges as cleansed. One youth who had such a ceremony performed for him described it as “You step on the eggs to make you a member of the family”.

II (This paper was also useful... and deeply disturbing)
"What About the Girls?"

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