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
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
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
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
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
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.