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Johnston McMaster Speaks on Reconciliation

Johnston McMaster Speaks on Reconciliation

Johnston McMaster addresses Bethel students during chapel.

Johnston McMaster, an author and lecturer from Northern Ireland, recently spoke about reconciliation during a College of Arts & Sciences chapel. He then stayed for a Q&A session with Bethel faculty, students, and staff.

Christian Collins Winn, associate professor in the Department of Biblical and Theological Studies, and Pamela Erwin, associate dean for professional programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, first met McMaster during a class they were teaching on conflict, reconciliation, and the church. Winn says they invited McMaster to Bethel because they noticed how students in their class resonated with McMaster’s explanation and understanding of reconciliation and they wanted to offer that experience to the larger Bethel community.

McMaster began his chapel address by focusing on the definition of reconciliation and used his own research into struggles in South Africa as well as Northern Ireland as examples. One explanation of reconciliation McMaster offered was “exchanging places with the other and therefore being in solidarity with the other; not against them.” He then suggested five points in the “praxis of reconciliation.”

First, he explained how reconciliation is a “relationship-centric process,” meaning that there must be trust built between sides for reconciliation to occur. Second, he mentioned that reconciliation is a “multi-faceted relational journey” and used the biblical story of Jacob and Esau as an example. Third, he described the importance of a “practice of humility” in reconciliation, saying that “humility is the sharing of ideas-not imposing them on one another.” Fourth, McMaster explained that reconciliation is not a “quick fix,” but instead called it a “wandering in the desert,” referencing the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land in the Old Testament. Finally, he said that “opposition is true friendship” in the praxis of reconciliation.

“We are hoping to use his talk as a basis for thinking about reconciliation here at Bethel,” said Winn. ”I was particularly intrigued by the idea of ‘opposition as genuine friendship’ in the reconciliation process.” Bethel University’s Department of Biblical and Theological Studies and the Office of Academic Affairs sponsored McMaster’s visit.

McMaster, who lives in Northern Ireland, is a lecturer and the director of Ethical and Share Remembering 1912-1922, an educational project at the Irish School of Ecumenics in Belfast and Trinity College Dublin. He is the author of Overcoming Violence, released in 2012.