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All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle –St. Francis of Assisi


Reconciliation and (Social) Justice


IARS 5th World Conference on Reconciliation

Assisi, Italy 

July 1st to 4th, 2024


IARS will host its 2024 annual conference in Assisi from July 1st to 4th, with the theme of "Reconciliation and (Social) Justice."


Social justice is a crucial part of Reconciliation Studies: academics, practitioners, and activists alike seek social justice in their work. Its importance in Reconciliation Studies is rarely addressed directly, however, nor has its relationship to reconciliation been sufficiently theorized. In contrast, it’s very developed in other academic fields, such as health care studies; anthropology; environmental justice; migration studies; diversity studies; philosophy, political science, sociology, religious studies and others. Further, social justice is important in most of the world’s religions, including Christianity (Catholic, Reformed and Orthodox) as well as Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.


Although the idea of social justice, in a sense, could be traced back to Plato, and certainly to philosophers from the 19th and 20th centuries (John Rawls, Martha Nussbaum, but also John Dewey, Henry Sidwick and Gustavo Gutiérrez, among others). It became extremely important in the 1960s, for example being emphasized in the UN’s “Declaration on Social Progress and Development” in 1969. We are aware that the concept of Social Justice itself is polysemic and it may be difficult to provide an uncontroversial definition of the term. For the IARS conference we focus on the following aspects of social justice:


  • Promoting “just” and equitable societies

  • Valuing diversity

  • Fighting against discrimination due to culture, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, or religion, refugee status, citizenship, socioeconomic status or origin.

  • Ensuring fair allocation of resources 

  • Support for human rights

  • Peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations

  • Full participation in society by all members 

  • Building multicultural societies: the role of forced migrants

  • Creating or re-creating a peaceful society after collective traumas


In Reconciliation Studies, the concept of social justice is connected with diversity and with the creation, or re-creation not only of a peaceful society, but of a pluralistic one. Racial and cultural diversity, as well as religious plurality, freedom of speech and thought, are the pillars of a plural society. The protection of minorities, the elimination of discrimination (racial, sexual, political, religious, disability) and the struggle for women’s rights are all social justice elements relevant to Reconciliation Studies.


The idea of a “just” society involves relationships with others, reconciliation with oneself, reconciliation with others or the “other”, and the vast topic of migration and human mobility. In fact, responsible integration of migrants is essential for the creation of  long-term peaceful societies, especially in this time of fast-paced forced migration. We recognize, however, that the concept of “just” can be controversial and we also invite work that engages with this discussion. 


Therefore, in this conference, the concept of social justice is intended to be interpreted in the broadest way possible and involves many concepts of Reconciliation Studies.


The 2024 IARS Annual World Conference on Reconciliation will be held in Assisi, Italy for the first time. Assisi has symbolic meaning for both Reconciliation Studies generally and for the 2024 theme of Social Justice more specifically. Francis exemplifies the theme of social justice through his commitment to the poor, his loving dedication toward all people and other creatures, and his rejection of materialism. Further, moments of his life are relevant to theories of Reconciliation Studies; for example, his meeting with Sultan Al-Kāmil in 1219 during the Fifth Crusade illustrates the Hölderlin Perspective, which maintains that reconciliation can, and indeed should, occur during conflict, not only after a conflict has ended.


The city of Assisi is not only important because of the life of St. Francis, but also due to the impact his life and the location subsequently had on interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding. In 1986, Pope John Paul II hosted a World Day of Prayer for Peace in which he invited leaders from the world’s religions to come to Assisi, engage in interreligious dialogue to overcome war and violence, and to pray for peace within their own customs/beliefs/cultures; 160 religious leaders from all over the world attended, including: Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians, as well as representatives of Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, African and North American animists, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism and Baha’i. This experience came to be known as the  “Spirit of Assisi” and it has become one of the most important religious events of all time. It is still understood as a call for religious leaders to unite in promoting peace and reconciliation, and this “Spirit of Assisi”, combined with the life of St Francis, can be an inspiration for conference participants of different religions, as well as non-religious participants.


Chairs of the Organizing Committee:

Davide Tacchini (Friedrich Schiller University Jena/JCRS)

Colleen Alena O’Brien (University of Saarland and JCRS)


Members of the Organizing Committee:

Pedro Valenzuela (Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá)

Ralf Häussler

Maximilian Schell (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)

Josef Boehle (University of Birmingham)

Martin Leiner (Friedrich Schiller University Jena/JCRS)

Alena Dvořáková


The IARS hosts a conference in a different part of the world, rotating between Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa in order to promote inclusivity. Reconciliation Studies is a relatively young research paradigm that emerged in the context of “transitional” societies such as South Africa or Rwanda. It is distinct from "classical" research approaches to peace and conflict: Whereas conventional peace approaches focus primarily on structural and institutional factors of peacemaking, Reconciliation Studies focuses particularly on the relational aspect and thus on emotional and cognitive factors of conflict prevention, transformation and resolution, without ignoring structural and supra-individual conditions. From the perspective of Reconciliation Studies, it is possible to ask how normal and, if possible, good, relations can be established within a society or context, at all levels: intrapersonal and interpersonal, intercollective (in the domestic and/or interstate sphere), and institutional, while taking into account both top-down and bottom-up processes. Reconciliation is not only a private matter, but reconciliation processes have to be implemented at the same time through policies of reconciliation, e.g. coming to terms with the past through: justice and punishment; truth and reconciliation commissions; perpetrator-victim settlements and reparations; the development of security measures; spaces for victims, perpetrators, and other members of society to discuss experiences and promote memory. Truth and justice are essential components of Reconciliation Studies, especially restorative justice (as opposed to punitive justice) in order to integrate the needs of perpetrators, victims, and the larger community/society. IARS conferences offer a space in which case studies as well as theories, models and conceptions relevant to reconciliation are brought into conversation with current fields of discourse (social justice, ecological justice and sustainability studies, refugee studies, migration studies, etc.). The conference is inter- and trans-disciplinary including approaches from psychology, philosophy, education, sociology, economics, law, political science, history, economics, regional studies, communication studies, art, and theology.


We accept papers about reconciliation and (social) justice, broadly intended. Some possible themes for papers are:


Theories of Reconciliation and Social Justice

Application of Theories of Reconciliation in Contemporary Societies

Reconciliation and Migration

Reconciliation and Refugee Studies

Reconciliation in Divided Societies

Reconciliation, Religion, and Social Justice

Reconciliation and the Spirit of Assisi

Reconciliation and Interfaith Dialogue

Reconciliation and Liberation Theology


Abstracts should be 500 words long, not including references. Abstract submission is now closed.


All presentations should be in English.

Authors should also submit a 100 word bio, in a separate document, attached to the same email along with the abstract submission.


We also welcome alternative submissions, such as films or artwork related to reconciliation. Feel free to contact Colleen O’Brien and Davide Tacchini with specific questions about these submissions at the email address below. 


Abstracts should be submitted to:


All presentations will be in person in Assisi.


Each presentation will be 20 minutes long followed by 10 minutes of discussion. There will be 3 papers in a panel and each panel will have a chair to introduce each presenter and enforce time. 


All presenters must register as members of the IARS:

Registration fees for the conference are due on June 10 (updated from May 15th) and are as follows:

  • 100€ for professors

  • 40€ for postdocs

  • 20€ for scholars from the Global South and students

In order to attend the conference, you must also become a member of IARS. Information about how to become a member and the registration form can be found here:

Late registration (after June 10th) or on-site registration is also possible. Fees are as follows: 

  • 150€ for professors

  • 60€ for postdocs

  • 30€ for scholars from the Global South and students

Fees for both IARS membership and conference registration should be sent to the IARS bank account. 

We have reserved rooms at the Domus Pacis Hotel in Assisi. Each participant will pay €70 euros a night, which includes breakfast and lunch. More information about accommodation is provided below.

Papers do not have to be sent to us. Presenters are welcome to prepare a PowerPoint presentation and/or a handout paper. If you create a PowerPoint presentation, please send the file 48 hours before your presentation to:


This will help us avoid technical problems during the panels.

We plan to publish some papers following the conference. Interested authors can contact the editors of the Journal of Reconciliation Studies at



Domus Pacis Hotel in Assisi

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