Reconciliation Workshop (Obstacles & The 6 Stages of Reconciliation) with Dr. Salim Munayer

Dr. Salim Munayer is the founder of Musalaha, a faith-based organization that teaches, trains and facilitates reconciliation mainly between Israelis and Palestinians from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, and also international groups, based on biblical principles of reconciliation as taught by Jesus. Salim’s material is included as part of the curriculum at Pepperdine University along with another university in the U.K..

Salim is the author of Journey Through the Storm and Through My Enemy’s Eyes: Envisioning Reconciliation in Israel-Palestine.

When we go to another country, we need to learn their language and cultures in order to communicate with them. We become ambassadors. This is the incarnational model.
Too often we expect others to learn our language and our culture and adjust to us.

A Ministry of Reconciliation:

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

– 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Our message is to be reconciled to God and the announcement of the new creation! God is reconciling the world to Himself, and we are invited to join Him in this work.

  • Our vocation is a ministry of reconciliation.
  • Too often we buy into an Epicurean philosophy which divides the physical and the spiritual.
  • Heaven and earth overlap. We are to join God in bringing more of heaven to earth.
  • The old has gone and the new has come. Much like the way a snake sheds its skin, we are invited into a process of transformation.
  • God is pleading to the world through those who follow Jesus. We are to take upon ourselves the pain and injustice of the world. We are to be empathetic ambassadors. We need to take up our cross and die to self. What happened on the cross is Jesus took upon Himself the sins and injustices of the world upon Himself. We are to do the same like sponges – soaking up the darkness and with the power of Christ spreading the light.
  • Are we including others who are different than us? Does our church look like our neighborhood?

The Characteristics of an Intractable Conflict:

  • Violent
  • Demanding
  • Zero sum nature
  • Ethos of the conflict as an obstacle
  • Religion (competing religious worldviews and identities)

Oftentimes diplomacy does not work when it comes to an intractable conflict.

What works is a grassroots movement.

The Power of Grassroots Movements:

See “Nonviolent protests are twice as likely to succeed as armed conflicts – and those engaging a threshold of 3.5% of the population have never failed to bring about change.” and The story Leymah Gbowee.

The early church was a grassroots movement. The early church believed what Jesus said and lived it out, and the Roman Empire was upended. They loved their enemies. They lived differently choosing to live holy lives. Their communities were diverse in terms of ethnicity, gender, and socio-economic status. They served those who were suffering. Too often in our day, Christians are passive. They listen to a message and never truly act upon it.

Often women are the true catalyst for change. See The story Leymah Gbowee.

See “Nonviolent protests are twice as likely to succeed as armed conflicts – and those engaging a threshold of 3.5% of the population have never failed to bring about change.

It is important to address the severe imbalance of power when it comes to conflict.

The Example of the First Conflict in the Early Church:

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.

– Acts 6:1-7

Notice how those with less power, those in the minority, were given a voice and power as they were the ones chosen to solve the problem. Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas were Hellenistic Jews.

Obstacles to Reconciliation:

  1. Finding a forum to develop relationships and trust.
  2. Ignoring reality or maintaining status quo.

Asking for forgiveness and saying sorry is not enough. This is a start for sure, but there still needs to be justice. Too often we do not address the systemic issues that need to change. We can be blind to the systemic issues.

In the cross the love of God and justice of God come together. This is redemptive love.

Both love and justice need to be involved.

Without justice then the systemic issues continue and more conflict will happen.

Justice without love turns into revenge.

Physical Obstacles:

In Israel and Palestine, there are separation walls, checkpoints, living in different neighborhoods with varying access to opportunity, misinformation and disinformation and lack of information arising from being unable to meet the other side; and violence and/or the perceived threat of violence.

In the U.S.A. there are gated communities, segregation in our cities, misinformation and disinformation and lack of information arising from being unable to meet the other side; and violence and/or the perceived threat of violence.

Emotional Obstacles:

  • Fear
  • Suspicion
  • Despair
  • Complacency and apathy
  • Denial of responsibility and reality
  • Anger
  • Hatred
  • Bitterness and blame

One time prayer is not usually enough. This takes hard work.

Psychological Obstacles:

1. Racism stems from the following

  • Labeling people as “other”
  • Moral superiority (In marriage – “I provide for you!” “I have taken care of you!” given as excuses for not needing to change.)
  • Ethnocentrism
  • Fear of losing control

2. Dehumanization and demonization (“The other person or persons are beyond redemption.”)

3. Victimization, secondary victimization

4. Self-fulfilling prophecy: not allowing for a positive outcome to occur

5. Trauma: emotional or physical wounds leading to psychological distress. Too often we have neglected to work towards healing our trauma. Trauma from the past can trigger responses in the present.

We need to be patient with each other and invite the Holy Spirit to bring new creation into our lives and into our relationships.

These obstacles can be overwhelming and even depressing, but we have hope in Christ and His work in us and through us!

The Stages of Reconciliation

Stage 1 – Beginning of Relationships


  • Meet on neutral ground
  • Participate in non-threatening activities
  • Meet in an equal and balanced group
  • Build trust.
  • Take risks by sharing personal stories.


  • Excitement
  • Enthusiasm
  • Caution
  • Hesitation
  • Curiosity

Stage 2 – Grievances


  • Unload grievances
  • More trust-building


  • Risk could be rewarded with injury
  • Surprised, vulnerable, antagonized, overwhelmed
  • Identity (personal and group) is challenged or even attacked.

Often there is a huge gap in understanding each other in this stage.
Some want to defend themselves or argue that what the other person is feeling is not accurate.
Some are in denial of what the other person has experienced.

Stage 3 – Withdrawal


  • Meet grievance with grievance
  • Relationships fade


  • Confirmed suspicions
    “withdrawal was inevitable”
    “we will never understand each other”

Countering Withdrawal – The Contact Hypothesis

When two groups come together they must do the following:

  • Have equal status in the context of meeting each other.
  • Share common goals.
  • Have little to no competition between them.
  • Be supported by authority figures.

For Musalaha, they created the Desert Encounter as a way to create a neutral ground and a place where they are more open to listening and learning. They travel together, cook together, live together, and get to know each other. Your enemy becomes your source of survival!

Stage 4 – Reclaiming Identity


  • Examine identity, as it is the first casualty of painful conflict.
  • Take time for self-reflection and affirmation.
  • Might be done at the expese of the other.
  • Make internal decision to move forward or not.


  • Stuck
  • Distant
  • Bitter
  • Defeated
  • Frustrated

These feelings are the key to spiritual growth! If you are content then you see no reason to change or grow.
When you think everything is ok then there is no longing for new creation.
There has to be a death before we can experience the new life. There is no resurrection without the crucifixion!

Our identity is being constructed in the context of community. In community we are constantly negotiating who we are. If you are open to this then you will be blessed.

Same is true in the context of marriage and in our families. What is your family’s identity or mission?

What is needed for change?


  • Try to bridge the gap between two narratives.
  • Form them into a third narrative.
  • Create a joint narrative that serves as a foundation for reconciliation to be built upon.
  • Or accept that the two narratives will never be bridged and focus on areas of weakness in both narratives.

2. Redeeming memory to counter victimization

3. Trauma training – seek forgiveness and healing. Forgiveness does not equal reconciliation.

4. Identity transformation

What about when only one person in the conflict wants to work towards reconciliation and the other does not?

Help the resistant one to see the beauty of working through the conflict.

Create ways for both parties to do something together.

You won’t lose your identity but your identity will be restored.

Narrative Provides the Following:

  • Identity – There is a focus on positive in-group images, and blame is attributed to the other side. For example, both Israelis and Palestinians see themselves as the true victims of the conflict and see the other side as the aggressor.
  • Legitimacy – It is important that each side sees themselves as “right” and the other side as “wrong.”
  • Functional Truth – This is a partial truth that serves the purpose of offering legitimacy and only serves the truth as a secondary condition.
  • Zero Sum Mentality – Because so much rests on narrative, anything that challenges the narrative is very threatening. This leads to zero sum mentalities which refuse any critique.

Stage 5 – Committing and Returning

  1. Restoring Individual and Group Relationships – this means constructively engaging with the other side to allow inner healing to take place, rebuilding trust, and reclaiming one’s identity to bless one’s neighbor. This includes taking concrete steps towards a more peaceful environment.
  2. Addressing Systematic Injustices – this means dealing with the core issues of the conflict and challenging policies, systems, legal structures, etc. that oppress people and cause an imbalance of power, which damages the ability to reconcile.

Stage 6 – Taking Steps

While working through the process of reconciliation, sustainability is key. The crucial first step is the building of relationships. This is a very difficult step, as it requires participants to step out of their comfort zones and reach out to people on the “other” side. 

After relationships have been established, participants can begin to deal with the issues; a process that is never easy, but is made possible because of the personal relationships that have been built. Next, participants need to receive training in reconciliation and in leadership, so they can best impact their society by spreading the message of reconciliation and hope. Participants who have gone through this process are able to bear witness to its transformative power, and help recruit new participants and bring them into the process. 

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