National Juneteenth Observance Foundation
                         Celebration of Freedom


United Nations Asst Sec General Luc Gnacadja

Statement of Asst. United Nations Secretary General
Luc Gnacadja at the 2009 Juneteenth Prayer Breakfast

Asst. United Nations Secretary General Luc Gnacadja
at the National Press Club in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON JUNETEENTH National Holiday Observance
National Day of Reconciliation and Healing from the Legacy of Enslavement

Friday, the "19th of June", 2009
Juneteenth Independence Day
National Press Club
Washington, DC

Dear Dr Ronald Myers, Chairman of the National Juneteenth Christian Leadership Council

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Brothers & Friends

Thank you very much for granting me the privilege to take part in this year’s celebration of the National Day of Reconciliation and Healing from the Legacy of Enslavement.

As we have being offered to watch the excellent video on the Benin initiative for reconciliation and development, allow me at the outset to recall the purpose of that initiative that led to "The Leaders Conference for Reconciliation and development" held in Cotonou, Benin in December 1999.

Often, Africans explain and justify their misfortunes of today by pointing at the consequences of the slave trade and the colonization.

In the same way African-Americans refer to slavery as the roots of their challenges in America.

Almost 150 years after the end of the slave trade, the stigmas of that crime against humanity are still vivid in many communities in Africa. His Excellency Mathieu KEREKOU, former President of Benin Republic and the initiator of "The Leaders Conference for Reconciliation and Development", in his opening speech of the conference, said: "The disastrous consequences of the long and painful separation of our ancestors are still dividing families, villages, ethnic groups and whole regions of our great, beautiful and rich continent, Africa. … Benin is a country that still bears the indelible marks of history that can be forgiven, but not forgotten."

The slave trade had been instigated and supported by leaders of the world for almost four centuries. The Benin Conference was meant to bring some leaders and statesmen of today together in a "cleansing process", through the mediation of Jesus-Christ, in order to "transform a curse into a cure". This requires to face the truth and the legacy of all the hatred and bitterness that portray the relationships between Africans and African-Americans as well as Blacks and Whites.

Ten years after the Benin’s initiative I really, truly feel blessed, privileged and honored to partake in the National Juneteenth Prayer Breakfast and to testify how the people of the United States of America are embracing the truth of slavery through a genuine apology and forgiveness.

The Benin initiative for reconciliation and development, compared to other similar processes, was neither dictated by a post-civil war or a post-conflict peace building approach, nor driven by any national emergency or strong political pressure to do so.

The scope of the Benin’s initiative is trans-generational and transcontinental. That’s why the hands of repentance and quest for forgiveness has been extended to people living on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, with whom there is no direct coexistence constraint. 2

Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War, reconciliation has taken an increasing part in national and international peace making agenda, especially in the political strategies of post conflict countries.

From 1989 to 2004 the number of civil wars or intra-state conflicts in the world ranged from 27 to 50 per year. This could explain the growing political interest (as well as the support of the international community) for reconciliation as a post conflict strategy to bring victims and perpetrators to peaceful coexistence.

So, in order to seek truth and build a conducive environment for apology, forgiveness and trust, many post conflicts countries (Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Liberia, to name very few) have chosen to emulate the ground breaking experience of South Africa, with its Post Apartheid "Truth and Reconciliation Commission ".

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. Can the Reconciliation and Development model become a global peace building paradigm?

Reconciliation in political agenda is an initiative to help victims and perpetrators to communicate in searching for a common ground, in order to conceive together a shared purpose for the future and build the required relationships for a peaceful coexistence.

Is reconciliation possible without forgiveness? And if the essence of reconciliation is spiritual, can we make it a nation endeavour, or even an international commitment?

Reconciliation without forgiveness is pretending that the fire is quenched while the embers are still glowing under the ashes.

But "Forgiveness demands more than statecraft can deliver" said Charles Villa-Vicencio a researcher and lecturer "The Politics of Reconciliation".

If we agree with this statement, why continue to lay the table of reconciliation on state political agenda?

The challenge is about how to reflect the spiritual factor in public policies and institutions in charge of foster reconciliation. Nationwide and in all fields of international diplomacy for peace and reconciliation endeavours, it should be reminded that we are spiritual beings living a human experience.

The demand for reparations will always keep a ground for resentment and mistrust, as we have seen throughout history, for instance in Europe between the countries involved in the 1st and the 2nd World War.

In a post-conflict context, how does reconciliation relates with the need for justice, rule of law, restoration of trust in state institutions and other pre-requisites for development?

Is reconciliation possible when the victims are still in refugee’s camps? 3

Ladies and gentlemen, there are so many unresolved questions because there is no shortcut for reconciliation, no universal easy- to-use template to reach it. Every reconciliation process must be designed and rooted in the local specific political, socio-economical and cultural context. It will bear fruits only if it is genuinely initiated and exempt of any manipulative intention.

And there is one fundamental requisite: forgiveness.

"Forgiveness is the economy of the heart... forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits." (Hannah MORE) And "when you forgive, you in no way change the past - but you sure do change the future." (Bernard MELTZER)

2. But the leadership factor will always remain crucial for any reconciliation initiative to bear positive fruits

Starting and boosting a reconciliation process requires an initiator and that role often falls to the victim.

At this stage I would like to quote my very dear friend Jack Gaines for who I know this gathering is especially important, and who said (OR WROTE): "God's plan requires the victim to initiate forgiveness, freeing the perpetrator to feel remorse and apologize. Man's plan is for the victim to remain in waiting for the perpetrator to initiate the apology".

When he keeps on feeding and fueling the feeling of hatred, the victim perpetuates the iniquity done unto him and builds a self-imposed prison to live in.

Whereas the Bible says "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us" (Rom. 8.37, NIV)

When God undertook to reconcile mankind with Him and with himself, He didn’t set up a commission; He sent a leader, the greatest leader of all-time: Jesus-Christ of Nazareth. Reconciliation is indeed a leadership issue, an essential and integral part of the need for us all to rule our life.

3. Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Friends

Today the world is facing new and unprecedented threats. An unregulated globalization and climate change are making millions of victims; their livelihoods are jeopardized by faceless perpetrators through their unsustainable consumption patterns. With whom will those victim reconcile and how?

We know that the world is not born-again, but we also know that God can use anybody regardless of his religion.

The replication of the reconciliation model of Christ in order to bring long-lasting peace and development in nations is part of the mandate of the children of God, as partakers of the mind of Christ, of the Spirit of Christ.

There is "no future without forgiveness" said Desmond Tutu, and my hope is that we all agree with Him, and move together forward, accordingly.

Thank you for being a blessing to me in such a profound way.