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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?

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