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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondAs we have seen in lecture on the role of collective memories in conflicts in week 3, whatever it is that is remembered in collective memories, it is not fact, or in any case not just facts. To remember intergroup conflicts that occurs in the past is a political practise. It concerns a struggle over representations off the past in order to define relations in the present. Because of the enduring power of collective memories about group conflicts, reconciliation efforts in post-conflict situations are bound to fail if they do not include memory work. Creating a platform for victims to tell their stories and have their versions of the past recognised can be an important first step in this process.

Skip to 0 minutes and 53 secondsWhile being able to speak out may be a liberating experience to the victims as such, the aim of hearing their personal truths should not be let bygones be bygones. To the contrary, coming to terms with the past can only be accomplished by forgiving, rather than by forgetting. Psychological research has pointed out that on a personal level, forgiving is not a matter of putting the past behind, for example, by repressing memories. Rather it concerns the willingness to abandon one's right to resentment towards one's injurer. Forgiveness consists often interpersonal and an intrapersonal face. The interpersonal face consists of learning to perceive the injurer as a real person rather than as to typical wrongdoer.

Skip to 1 minute and 50 secondsIn the intrapersonal face, the emphasis for the forgiver is on finding inner peace. The difficulty of projects that aim at reconciliation between groups is that forgiveness a group level does not work in the same way as in persons. Groups have no psyches that experience trauma in a similar way to individuals. Learning to recognise injurers as real persons, human beings like us, for instance, such things are difficult to establish on a group level. While victims may have vivid memories of the actual person to caused them harm, the other group as a collective of injurers remains a distant, unpersonal entity. Projects that organise interpersonal encounters between members of formerly hostile groups can help remedy this to some extent.

Skip to 2 minutes and 47 secondsIn the interview with [? Eric ?] [? Maimar ?] about the peacebuilding efforts of Christian and Muslim youth on Ambon in Indonesia, [? Eric ?] discussed several activities geared at interpersonal encounters between members of formerly hostile groups. Developing educational programmes that focus on shared characteristics and shared memories between formally hostile groups can also help. Of the last 10 years, for example, European commemorations of the end of World War Ii have begun to pay attention to the suffering and losses of innocent citizens on both sides.

Skip to 3 minutes and 25 secondsThat it took more than 50 years before such commemorations were possible illustrates how long painful memories can hamper the deconstruction of the stereotypical image of the abject other and recognise him or her as a fellow human being. Another difficulty of reconciliation projects on group level is that the construction of politically expedient collective narratives of reconciliation may be out of step with the feelings of individuals survivors. While effectively getting rid of regimes of denial and silence, truth and reconciliation projects run the risk of creating a new discourse of forgetting and repressing memories.

Skip to 4 minutes and 14 secondsSpeaking about and producing a revised collective account of the past is at best only the beginning of a set of linked processes that can lead to a situation where the trauma of an intergroup conflict is no longer an unfinished business that plague the victims. Reparations and revenge through legal trials of perpetrators may have to accompany the memory work. Without memory work, however, reconciliation and enduring peace is not feasible at all. In the previous lecture on peace building, my colleague Evan Wilson discussed the roles that religious leaders may play in peacebuilding projects.

Skip to 4 minutes and 58 secondsIt is particularly in organising and facilitating the kind of memory work that is essential for reconciliation to be realised that religious leaders can be excellent brokers between the different parties involved. To sum up, in this week's lectures on the role of religion in peacebuilding, we have seen that despite the blind spot that many policymakers and those involved in international relations have of the potential role of religion in conflict resolution, including religion can be of great value to conflict resolution.

Skip to 5 minutes and 35 secondsOnce we abandon static views on religion as either intrinsically good or bad, and once we start paying attention to the different meanings religion may have for people in different contexts, we can develop more nuanced approaches to peacebuilding, approaches that involve a broader range of actors and world views, that more people feel ownership over, and consequently will contribute to building stronger societies and lasting peace.

The role of collective memories in reconciliation

Collective memory can be a factor in religiously framed conflicts, so logically it would also be a necessary part of peace building.

This video addresses how collective memory work plays a significant role in the process of peacebuilding with reference to different approaches and case studies. It also introduces international organisations and situations that feature reconciliation projects.


Questions to consider while watching the video:

  • Why might forums for grief be a sensitive issue?
  • With regard to criticisms of a general cultural bias in peacebuilding processes to date, what might some culture considerations be in the process of collective memory work in peacebuilding?

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This video is from the free online course:

Religion and Conflict

University of Groningen

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