Mediation: the roots of mediation

Mediation is a process that helps to deal with conflicts. It is based on the four basic principles of the Harvard concept. In the 1970s, mediation became increasingly important as an alternative to the often lengthy and costly litigation in the United States. But efforts at mediation and conciliation existed long before that. We will give you an overview of the “back story” of mediation.

Mediation in conflicts in the Bible

In several places in the Bible there is reference to the mediation of uninvolved persons who helped to resolve conflicts. For example, in the first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul recommended that church members resolve their conflicts themselves without calling a judge; preferably by involving an uninvolved third party to do so (Corinthians 6:1-4).

Further evidence of this is found in Matthew (5:9) and I Timothy (2:5).

Conflict resolution in the Far Eastern tradition

China has a centuries-old tradition of reconciliation and mediation. In the Chinese cultural area, arbitration in particular plays an important role. Because it is necessary for the restoration of harmony among citizens.

In contrast, the initiation of official legal proceedings can be understood as an insult to the other party. This would lead to loss of face for both parties and should therefore always be avoided.

A “culture of dispute” of the kind established in Western cultures is not to be found in Japan either.

In general, the low density of lawyers in the East Asian region can probably be traced back to the Far Eastern mindset: Reconciliation and mediation are a very high value there.

First attempts at mediation in Europe

For Germany, the first documented example of successful mediation is the Peace of Westphalia of Münster and Osnabrück. Several ecclesiastical and secular representatives mediated between the warring parties in 1648 and thus brought about an agreement. Among the nearly 150 envoys of the respective parties, there were also two neutral mediators.

This is reminiscent of the form of mediation practiced today in large-scale political projects and complex processes. In such large-scale mediations, a team of mediators often mediates between the various groups with different interests.

Conciliation and reconciliation in America

In America, Quakers have been known for their mediation and arbitration procedures since the 17th century. The basis for this is the “peace theology,” according to which the congregation is committed, for example, to the end of slavery and the equality of men and women.

The “Jewish Reconciliation Committee

In 1920, the “Jewish Reconciliation Committee” was established in New York, based on the “Jewish Religious Court.” This was already used by the ancient Hebrews for reconciliation and mediation between disputing parties.