by Lorraine Cavanagh
from Signs of the Times No. 56 - Jan 2015

This book is a clear and timely contribution to the reconciliation debate, a debate which is not only intensifying, given the current world political climate, but becoming ever more nuanced and complex. Brian Castle responds to this complexity with a nuance which is hidden in the title itself.

Reconciliation is a life changing event, but also a journey. There are two vital pieces of wisdom to be drawn from his writing and which are pivotal to the book itself. The first, that reconciliation is an ongoing process which does not depend on the cessation of conflict.  Conflict is therefore a potential for good. The second, that life is in itself a reconciling process from the start.

To these ends, the author draws our attention to the various ‘drivers’ of reconciliation, and, building on the ‘marks’ of reconciliation, to the different and quite separate contexts in which reconciliation can take place. Taken together, these are positive ways of looking at this difficult problem. They suggest, first of all, that reconciliation does not happen overnight. Neither is it necessarily a once and for all event. Grounding his argument in the Christian tradition, and with a number of illuminating examples taken from stories pertaining to the lives of individuals, as well as to the world stage, Brian Castle gives substance to what can otherwise be an abstract idea, longed for but, given the limitations of human nature, impossible to achieve.

He also sharpens and focuses reconciliation theology through examples taken from real life. We read of the healing work of Korean minjung theology which was developed in South Korea in the aftermath of the Japanese occupation and of the Cold War. One of the writer’s central concerns, and which makes the book of particular value to the Church, is the difference he makes between the idea of being a victim and victimhood itself. Victimhood is something which people who have suffered at the hands of others will often hold on to. This traps them in such a way as to make it impossible for them to embark on the process of reconciliation and so arrive at forgiveness. Interest groups within the Church have much to learn from this important distinction.

This is a book which many will find helpful. Each chapter ends with questions for general discussion and personal reflection, grouped accordingly, along with a short liturgy specifically designed for the areas of reconciliation under consideration.

It would be an excellent resource for a Lent or Advent course, as well as for use in more general contexts.