Posts

What Happens When Countries Cannot Heal

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Imagine a child, lying dead, having been washed up on a Turkish beach as he, and his family, attempt to reach Greece and flee from the ongoing civil war and humanitarian crisis currently laying waste to Syria. It happened, and it shocked the world. This gut-wrenching and emotion evoking image highlights the true cost of conflict. News organizations around the world focus on the battles between government forces and rebels, the role terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State (ISIS) play in the conflict, and the varying degrees of intervention by other nations. What is often forgotten is how this conflict profoundly affects those victims to the conflict, the ordinary citizens trying to protect their family and friends, whose sole mission is just trying to survive.

With so much conflict being experienced around the world it is a wonder why more time and effort is not spent on the healing of nations. Other factors seem to play center stage. Yet when societies ignore the importance of healing to the extent that healing does not occur, trauma is passed on to the next generation, a strong desire for revenge is felt and high levels of mistrust are maintained towards the ethnic groups marginalized in society.

Political Forgiveness affords individuals and communities opportunities to openly talk about their experiences and heal the painful memories of the past.

What entails a political forgiveness process? It begins with an acknowledgment by governments of the human rights violations which have taken place. Truth telling is another important component of a political forgiveness process. This includes dialogue between victims and perpetrators, providing spaces and opportunities for individual healing processes to occur as well as group and community processes that allow for the communal healing of memories. It is important for traumatized communities to heal together. On a national level a country must decide what to do in a healing capacity to bring a nation together.

when nations do not heal, the lack of healing results in the need to pass “the story” on to the next generation, a desire for revenge which continues to build

What we know is that when nations do not heal, the lack of healing results in the need to pass “the story” on to the next generation, a desire for revenge which continues to build especially when groups are humiliated and cannot express resentment and mistrust that develops within communities towards survivors, and from survivors and communities towards their governments. These are formidable negative consequences and clearly point to the importance of developing a systematic approach to political forgiveness. The question still remains, why is there such a lack of political will to help nations heal? Are well all to blame?

Sign up to receive more stories like this, book updates, videos, and announcements.

You Too Can Make a Difference

True forgiveness is a complex and prolonged evolutionary process. When forgiveness is seen within a political process separate from but also interwoven with justice, apology, truth, and reconciliation it becomes more complex. Its enactment belongs entirely to the offended and is a courageous and powerful expression of unconditional acceptance and love that is an attempt to stop the transfer of hate from one generation to the next. A genuine individual and collective willingness to try to release the hurts of the past, accompanied by hope and determination to begin anew, can be argued to be a beginning point in this process. But what are the emotional roots of forgiveness, the source of feeling that makes it possible? And why is this so important to understand concerning the healing of nations? Any healing process including when it involves the collective begins with the individual. Individual healing builds the foundation for community healing to take place which ultimately supports structural changes, all of which encompasses a political forgiveness process.

 

 

The power of forgiveness of one person can have a great influence over many others and can even change an entire nation. For example, we have seen a profound change take place in South African when Nelson Mandela was able to bring his country together in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. And there have been others who although not so well known have demonstrated how their forgiveness has helped transform societies.

One such person is Irene Laure, a French woman who as a child during World War I suffered at the hands of the Germans and during World War II was part of the resistance movement against the Nazis saving as many lives as she could. She personally knew all too well the horrors of what the Nazis did and certainly had every right to be so angry as to want to see Germany destroyed. Then shortly after the war ended Irene attended a conference on reconciliation and it was there where she struggled and finally embraced the idea of forgiveness. The forgiveness process was so transformative that not only did this experience transform Irene, it had a profound effect on France as well. Irene spent the rest of her life helping to build the moral of the German women and spreading the words of forgiveness.

Political forgiveness is not just about the individual, it includes working on a community level and on making structural changes. One incredible program developed to heal the wounds of a community took place in Sierra Leone. Fambul Tok, “Family Talk” in Krio emerged in Sierra Leone as a face-to-face community owned program that brings together perpetrators and victims of the violence from Sierra Leone’s eleven-year civil war for the first time since the war ended. They meet through ceremonies rooted in the traditions of the villages affected by this violence. At evening bonfire ceremonies, victims give voice to their memories and perpetrators confess. They can ask for, and offer forgiveness, preparing the way for individuals and communities to forge a new future together.