International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss


Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Empowerment in Transitional Justice
Neelke Doorn

The last decades have seen a rise in the public use of notions from the forgiveness discourse. In the present paper it is examined what role forgiveness, reconciliation and empowerment can play in the practice of transitional justice. On the basis of empirical findings, it is shown that forgiveness is too high an ideal to aim at. The promotion of forgiveness can generate much resistance, and even evoke counterproductive processes. Often past-sensibilities are too strong, and in many victim-groups self-respect is lacking. Moreover, structural injustices impede the healing process. This does however not force us to give up the ideal of reconciliation. Instead of focussing on forgiveness, reconciliation attempts should aim at the restoration of the victim’s sense of self-worth. Within reconciliation policy, priority should be given to empowerment of the former victims, which includes the removal of structural inequalities. Only then can the violent past be turned into a peaceful future.

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