Burying the Past

Making Peace and Doing Justice After Civil Conflict

Expanded and Updated Edition

Nigel Biggar, Editor

"A thoroughly researched, stimulating, and unequaled work that is ideal for case methodology instruction—a 'must read' for graduate students, researchers, faculty, and professionals/practitioners."
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No one can deny how September 11, 2001, has altered our understandings of "Peace" and "Justice" and "Civil Conflict." Those have become words with startling new life in our vocabularies. Yet "making" peace and "doing" justice must remain challenges that are among the highest callings of humanity—especially in a terror-heightened world. Nigel Biggar, Christian ethicist and editor of this now more than ever "must read" (Choice) volume, newly expanded and updated, addresses head-on the concept of a redemptive burying of the past, urging that the events of that infamous date be approached as a transnational model of conflict-and suggesting, wisely and calmly, that justice can be even the better understood if we should undertake the very important task of locating the sources of hostility, valid or not, toward the West.

Burying the Past asks these important questions: How do newly democratic nations put to rest the conflicts of the past? Is granting forgiveness a politically viable choice for those in power? Should justice be restorative or retributive? Beginning with a conceptual approach to justice and forgiveness and moving to an examination of reconciliation on the political and on the psychological level, the collection examines the quality of peace as it has been forged in the civil conflicts in Rwanda, South Africa, Chile, Guatemala and Northern Ireland.

There are times in history when "making peace" and "doing justice" seem almost impossible in the face of horrendous events. Those responses are understandably human. But it is in times just like these when humanity can—and must—rise to its possibilities and to its higher purposes in order to continue considering itself just and humane.

Table of Contents


Part One: Concepts

1. Making Peace or Doing Justice: Must We Choose?
Nigel Biggar

2. Where and When in Political Life Is Justice Served by Forgiveness?
Donald W. Shriver

3. Politics and Forgiveness
Jean Bethke Elshtain

4. The Philosophy and Practice of Dealing with the Past: Some Conceptual and Normative Issues
Tuomas Forsberg

Part Two: Dimensions

5. Innovating Responses to the Past: Human Rights Institutions
Martha Minow

6. National and Community Reconciliation: Competing Agendas in the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Hugo van der Merwe

7. Putting the Past in Its Place: Issues of Victimhood and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland's Peace Process
Marie Smyth

8. Does the Truth Heal? A Psychological Perspective on Political Strategies for Dealing with the Legacy of Political Violence
Brandon Hamber

Part Three: Cases

9. Passion, Constraint, Law and Fortuna: The Human Rights Challenge to Chilean Democracy
Alexandra Barahona de Brito

10. War, Peace, and the Politics of Memory in Guatemala
Rachel Sieder

11. Restorative Justice in Social Context: The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Charles Villa-Vicencio

12. Rwanda: Dealing with Genocide and Crimes against Humanity in the Contextof Armed Conflict and Failed Political Transition
Stef Vandeginste

13. Northern Ireland: Burying the Hatchet, Not the Past
Terence McCaughey

Part Four: Conclusion

Nigel Biggar

Epilogue: Burying the Past after September 11
Nigel Biggar


"A thoroughly researched, stimulating, and unequaled work that is ideal for case methodology instruction—a 'must read' for graduate students, researchers, faculty, and professionals/practitioners."—Choice, reviewing a previous edition or volume

"Well-written, timely and genuinely breaking new ground."—Religious Studies Review, reviewing a previous edition or volume

"A fascinating collection of essays."—Journal of Peace Research, reviewing a previous edition or volume


Alexandra Barahona de Brito Nigel Biggar Jean Bethke Elshtain Tuomas Forsberg Brandon Hamber Terence McCaughey Martha Minow Rachel Sieder Hugo van der Merwe Stef Vandeginste Charles Villa-Vicencio

Supplemental Materials


About the Author

Nigel Biggar is professor of theology at the University of Leeds, where he directs the Institute for the Advanced Study of Religion, Ethics, and Public Life. His previous books include Good Life: Reflections on What We Value Today and Theological Politics: A Critique of "Faith in the City."

368 pp., 6 x 9

May 2003

368 pp., 6 x 9

ISBN: 978-0-87840-394-3
May 2003

368 pp.

ISBN: 978-1-58901-286-8
May 2003

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