Age range: middle school and up


  • Determine some general and commonly used definitions for the word reconciliation
  • Consider how reconciliation relates to other justice-oriented definitions
  • Discuss types of reconciliation
  • Analyze how large groups of people can work toward reconciliation
  • Consider what a personal response to reconciliation could look like
  • Create an educational reconciliation tool for young children

Online Search Activity: Ask students to look up “reconciliation” online and share the definitions they come up with. The teacher should be prepared to respond to some of these definitions, challenging them where appropriate.

Some common definitions that might appear:

  • “The restoration of friendly relations”(A teacher may respond “this definition assumes that friendly relationships existed at one point, something that may not always be the case, especially when it comes to talking about racial reconciliation)
  • “The action of making one view or belief compatible with another” (A teacher may respond “Who decides which view has to change/be adjusted to make the views compatible?”)
  • “Making amends”
  • “Coming to a truce”
  • “Restoring a relationship to a harmonious state after a dispute” (A teacher may ask “When it comes to racial relationship, what has been the dispute?” The teacher will want to let students know that this may not be the best to describe racial reconciliation. To use the word “dispute” implies equal sides disagreeing. When it comes to racial reconciliation, much of the harm – slavery, racial violence/trauma – is due to a deep power imbalance.)
  • Catholic church defines reconciliation as the act of confessing ones sins- and performing penance – a sacrament – a grace conferring act
  • Restoration to favor – A teacher may want to let students know that this definition implies a power imbalance that may have been the root cause for the original falling out/mistrust.

Discussion Questions

  • What does reconciliation assume?
    • Assumes that there is a broken relationship between two entities
    • Assumes that the relationship can be fixed
    • What does reconciliation require?
    • Requires two parties ready to re-engage the terms and nature of the relationship, correcting problems where they exist.
    • Requires forgiveness
    • Requires ongoing commitment
    • Requires communication and ongoing repair where needed
  • If the broken relationship is caused by a key fault, does that entity have more responsibility in the reconciliation process?
    • Yes – have students explain why
  • How is reconciliation different from forgiveness?
    • Forgiveness is one-sided and does not mean that the parties have reconciled. Forgiveness may be a part of reconciliation though, especially if the broken relationship is caused by an abuse of power or resulted from a key fault from one party.
  • How is reconciliation different from justice?
    • Can two parties be reconciled without justice?
  • What relationships in our society need mending?
    • Religious, political, social, racial
  • Can we talk about reconciliation without talking about atonement (in a religious context) or reparations (in a racial context)?
    • Is full reconciliation possible in all of these spheres?
  • Can large groups of people reconcile with each other? Who speaks for them?

Think, Pair, Share – Discussion Activity

  • What can be done to get large groups of people to enter back into harmonious relationships with each other?
  • Ask students to think about this question on a State level, federal level, personal level, non-profit level, education level

Online Search Activity

Look up Centers of Reconciliation – locate their mission

  • John Hope Franklin mission – to transform the bitterness and mistrust caused by years of racial division, even violence, into a hopeful future of reconciliation and cooperation for Tulsa and the nation.
  • Duke School of Divinity – Center for Reconciliation – pastors and lay people can help churches reconcile with each other and with their communities

Role of memorials in reconciliation

Introduce students to the concept of Transitional justice

“Transitional justice processes are typically set in place following wide-scale human rights violations and conflicts. The memorialization process is fundamental to recovering from trauma and atrocity and thus plays an important role for societies that are undertaking or involved in transitional justice processes. Memorialization is important in various aspects of the transitional justice process, such as establishing the truth about historical events, providing symbolic reparation to victims, and assisting in the long-term building of democracy.”

“memory initiatives can unite people across vastly different experiences and perspectives to forge ways to work together in rebuilding the social fabric and commit to lasting peace.”


  • Are there other types of symbolic reparations we can talk about? Monuments, sites of memory, memorials, etc.
  • Are symbolic reparations enough? Can symbolic reparations take the place of financial reparations?

Creative Activity

  • How would you explain reconciliation to a child?
    Do a google search for reconciliation book for children. What do you notice?
  • They’re almost all religious books
  • Why do you think almost all the books for children on the topic of reconciliation are religious?
  • In a group, talk about how you would go about talking with children about racial reconciliation. Create an outline as well as several illustrations for a children’s book about racial reconciliation.

Additional Resources