the wounds of history
do we heal the wounds of history?
How can we restore the dignity of victims and victimisers?
Some choose to put a lid on the sufferings of the past. Others
use them to inflame hatred for a political or religious cause.
Both approaches compromise the future.
As one participant expressed it: "The
past will stand there in our memories with all its scars and
wounds. Reconciliation, however, can take away the contaminating
power of the past, its haunting presence, the devastating restlessness
of people that have not found peace."
For many individuals and nations, however, injustice and oppression
are not matters of the past. They continue to degrade their
How can justice be achieved? Is a process of forgiveness possible?
It requires a willingness to enter areas of great pain in our
own and other people's lives.
This conference which gathered more than 500 people from 68
different nations made this evident. Participants came from
countries such as Rwanda, Lebanon, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea
and Bosnia, which have recently emerged from traumatic civil
wars. Others came from countries and regions still locked in
conflict, like the Great Lakes region and the Horn of Africa,
Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Israel and Palestine.
This report looks at some examples given at the conference
of trust being built between adversaries, and the meaning of
forgiveness and its relationship to justice. It discusses the
role of religion, and witnesses to hope without denying the
brutal reality in which far too many people and countries continue
if different cultures express pain differently, suffering
is universal and is caused everywhere by the same ills. The
struggle for respect of human rights is also universal and
cultural differences should not be a decisive factor in that
Dr Cornelio Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Foundation of
Moral Re-Armament and former President of the International
Committee of the Red Cross, at the opening plenary.
has no creed or citizenship. No matter how deep the wound
is, there is always a remedy, if we hear with our hearts."
Samer Abu Ghazaleh, Gaza, Palestine
is not forgetting. It is not excusing or diminishing a wrong
that has been committed. It does not absolve people from
the consequences of their actions. It is not surrendering
the right to justice."
Journalist Michael Henderson, UK, author of the book Forgiveness,
Breaking the Chain of Hate
is the power to break the chains that bind us to past actions."
Author and sociologist Hannah Arendt