What happened during the last dinner together owed a

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What happened during the last dinner together owed a great deal to Dr. Leopoldo Niilus. He was a man of calm patience, but also had a passion for his work. Niilus had uncanny insight and diplomatic skill that came from his years in Switzerland with the Commission on the Churches in International Affairs, a division of the World Council of Churches. He had played a major role in negotiating a peace treaty in the Sudan in the early 1970s. On more than one occasion during the week with the Guatemalans, Niilus had defused a volatile argument with his sense of humor and his unique ability to say blunt things to both sides without offense. At the final dinner, Niilus was thoroughly engaged in the wide-ranging discussion. Perspectives We had gotten to the end of the day, and as was the custom, we would all would go out to eat. There was a nice restaurant in the mountains of the home in Colom, and there we had a private place where we gathered together to eat and drink and talk more informally. And those were not
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71 just sort of add-ons, by the way. Those informal times around the peace negotiations or talks about peace, can be the most important times of all, in every single situation of third party negotiations, because people start to ease up. The defenses are lowered, and they start to talk to each other with feeling and with passion. And this is what happened on this evening. We progressed with the dinner, very nice, and into the night. -Paul Wee The people who are sitting are predominantly three major players: members of the URNG, the military, and the defense minister accompanied with other advisors, and the Guatemalan government. The main challenge that they had at hand was what is the purpose of this meeting. How are we going to address issues of conversation with people who we believe are our enemy? It was a significantly troubling issue because it implied re-humanizing that enemy that you had dehumanized. That was particularly important for laying down a very basic agenda, putting it on the floor, and sitting face-to-face opened up this stage of rehumanizing the enemy. And in my opinion, conflict resolution begins at the process by which you transform the political identity of your enemy and yourself by understanding that you can communicate. -Manuel Orozco Spirit of Confession In the late hour, a spontaneous after-dinner speech set off a chain reaction. One of the members of the Political Diplomatic Commission of the URNG, Jorge Rosal, stood up to offer what was thought to be an after-dinner toast. What he said as he faced the group, however, was more like a confession, an admission that in his own quest to alter Guatemalan society, to bring a greater degree of justice for the poorest members of the community, things had not gone as he had hoped.
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  • Fall '16
  • Christianity, Religious pluralism, United States Institute, interfaith dialogue, David R. Smock

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