ln this talk I will describe what I regard as universal principles and practices of reconciliation. These have to be applied differentially to specific contexts or conditions. I will then discuss our reconciliation projects in East Africa, especially Rwanda but also Burundi and the Congo. We have conducted workshops/trainings, and developed educational radio dramas and informational radio programs, based on our theories about the origins and prevention of genocide, and trauma and healing. The effects of these interventions were evaluated in research, and the programs further shaped by the findings.
I will then discuss an important element in both the prevention of violence and reconciliation, expanding people’s caring for others beyond “us” to “them,” to members of other groups including past enemies. Methods for this may include differentiating between perpetrators and other members of perpetrator groups (whether the perpetration is one sided or mutual), acknowledging active bystanders such as resisters and rescuers, and through contact and other ways humanizing the other, shared commemorations of certain kinds, and providing children with experience and guidance that lead to care about people beyond their group.
I will also discuss the psychological wounds that many people carry after violent conflict. These can be a source of new hostility and lead to new violence. I will discuss experiences that transform woundedness, so that it becomes a source of empathy for and caring about other human beings. lndividuals and communities can promote such experiences, and thereby altruism born of suffering, through support before, during, and after victimization or trauma.
Truth commissions are strategic in nature with plan devised for situations in which war crimes and human rights abuses have largely came to an end and societies are struggling to come to terms with the tragedy. One focus is on investigations to determine what actually happened, especially to people who may have just “disappeared”. The task is also to find out who was responsible and assigning appropriate punishment within the province of investigation by a credible institution. This requires one to consider the forces that led people to commit such crimes.