Saturday, February 19, 2011

Religion & Transitional Justice

My institution (Santa Clara) recently hosted Paul Van Zyl, former Executive Secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, co-founder of the International Center for Transitional Justice, and CEO of Peace Ventures, a new NGO dedicated to identifying and providing market access to responsible businesses that are both profitable and help to prevent conflict or promote peace. The theory is:

By creating jobs, facilitating interaction between groups on opposite sides of the conflict and promoting cooperation across borders, these “peace businesses” can generate profit while making a global contribution to the prevention of conflict and protection of human rights.
Paul's talk focused on religion and its role in transitional justice, particularly in efforts to promote reconciliation—a key feature of many transitional justice efforts—and even forgiveness. Drawing on the case studies of South Africa, East Timor, and Morocco, he discussed:
  1. How faith influences what is desirable;
  2. How faith can be manipulated to impede peace and justice; and
  3. How justice efforts can influence faith and religion
The case of Morocco will be particularly interesting to our readers in that the truth commission there had to decide whether the reparations regime for the families of the disappeared would rely upon Shari'a succession rules. Under these rules, the eldest male heir of the dead or disappeared (such as a brother or male child) would receive the deceased's estate, leaving the wife with nothing. The truth commission decided to depart from these default rules and allow wives, daughters, and mothers to recover in the wake of Morocco's systemic violence. The truth commission thus created a space to consider ways to ensure more just outcomes and ended up prompting a broader and ongoing conversation within Moroccan society about potentially reforming the succession regime for all contexts.
Paul stressed that sequencing is an important component of any transitional justice agenda—what is possible or desirable in the immediate post-conflict period may evolve as a society moves farther away from the period of abuse or repression.

The webcast of Paul's fascinating talk is available here.

No comments: