Mô Bleeker  Switzerland  
Senior Advisor, Dealing with the Past, Department of Foreign Affairs

In case of massive human rights violations,  the way you treat the past is crucial for the future. This is what my Department is working on. How do we help recovery from such violations, from a situation in which 'the other' has become a non-person, dehumanized? Every situation is different, and the people involved have to find their own solutions. In my experience, the path to sustainable reconciliation is based on efforts such as establishing the facts, implementing justice, developing reparation programmes, and impeding a repeat of the violations through institutional and structural reforms.

2011 Forum

The role of religion in conflict and conflict resolution - Katherine Marshall, USA, Senior Fellow, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, University of Georgetown

The indigenous approach to well-being - Hadrien Coumans , USA, spokesperson for the Lenape people of the New York region of the USA

Faith based diplomacy - Douglas Johnston , USA, Founder and President of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy

Transforming societies after political violence - Ann Njeri Ndiangui , Kenya, International Coordinator, Creators of Peace

Hope in the Cities - Sylvester Turner, USA, Director of Reconciliation Programs, Hope in the Cities

Leadership that builds community - Brendan McAllister , UK, Northern Ireland Victims’ Commissioner

Report on the healing memory workshops of the Forum - Margaret Smith , USA, School of International Service, American University

2010 Forum

A Past that seeps into the present - Mohamed Sahnoun, Algeria, Initiator and Founder of the Caux Forum for Human Security and former Special Advisor to Secretary General Kofi Annan

The long road to reconciliation in Northern Ireland - Brendan McAllister, UK, Commissioner on the Commission for Victims and Survivors

Accountability and Forgiveness - Paul Komesaroff, Australia, Director, Monash Centre for Ethics in Medicine and Society, Executive Director, Global Reconciliation


Assaad Chaftari  Lebanon 
Former Christian militia leader, described by The New York Times as ‘the only major participant who has publicly apologized for his role in the atrocities'.

At Caux I learnt to seek direction in times of quiet. One day, in quiet, God showed me that I needed to look at my past as a militia leader. I decided to obey. For the first time, I felt the good Lord's smile. Since then I have tried to put right, as far as I can, the wrong I did. I go and meet my victims, those who are alive, and the parents of those who are not. During the civil war, 17,000 'disappeared' and our Government has done nothing to help their families. I have been moved by the nobility of spirit I have encountered among many, such as the politician who still suffers from a handicap incurred through the attempt on his life which I planned. He has made his office available to me to help in the cause of peace.

Our future lies in the hands of our young people. I go to their schools and universities to speak of the atrocities I committed and how I see things now. Many times after my talk, a student gets up and says, 'Thank you, sir. For the first time I understand how dreadful war is.'



Brendan McAllister  UK 
Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, Northern Ireland

The healing process has begun, but Northern Ireland is still far from reconciled. You can’t fast track forgiveness. At this stage community leaders have to beware of engaging too much and too soon with the former enemy, as this can arouse suspicion within their own community. What is needed is to create situations where people can meet and come out with better knowledge of each other. It’s not about loving your enemy; it’s about respecting him.


Paul Komesaroff  Australia 
Director, Monash Centre for Ethics in Medicine and Society;
Executive Director, Global Reconciliation

What is an effective healing response to injustice, injury, betrayal? Binary conceptions of perpetrator and victim, guilt and innocence, often prove inadequate. They can perpetuate the cycle of hatred, resentment, guilt, shame, retribution and humiliation.

Often, to break out of this vicious cycle, we need to create a moral space in which the victim moves from passive recipient of suffering or evil to an active subject who sets
the terms of ethical conduct. This is the space of forgivingness, of apology. Here are two examples from my own experience:

Katrina's daughter had schizophrenia. She warned the doctors that her daughter would be at risk if she left hospital but they let her go home anyway and she committed suicide. After many unsuccessful attempts to bring the doctors to account, Katrina now teaches medical students and works with families of people with mental illness.

Anton was 12 at the time of the massacre at Srebrenica, when his mother risked her life to wrest him from the assassination squad. Anton saw his father being murdered when the video kept by the squad came to light. Years later, I accompanied him back to Srebrenica where he made a finely crafted film, his attempt to reconstruct meaning out of unfathomable pain.

There are many pathways to reconciliation but there is a common theme: the recognition of a space outside hatred and blame, resentment and the desire for retribution. The resources are found within relationships and personal experiences, in moments of transcendence which demonstrate the inextinguishability of hope, compassion and love.


Olha Hudz  Ukraine

I was passionately involved in my country's Orange Revolution in 2004, and was an official observer for the three elections that year. When, the next year, I took part in an Initiatives of Change programme with a Ukrainian of Russian background, we clashed constantly. One day Lena apologized to me for the pain that the Russian nation had caused to Ukraine.

Never before had I had heard such an apology. I apologized to Lena for my bitterness towards Russians. I felt the kind of liberation that takes away all burdens.
Our divided country needs help. Now that censorship has been removed, we are discovering terrifying facts about the way our families were treated in the Soviet era, right up to the 1980s. The hearts of many Ukrainians are becoming overfilled with pain and hate. Ten of us from different regions have come together to work at healing the wounds, starting with ourselves. We have visited families all over Ukraine, and listened to war veterans, priests, housewives, as they have told of deportation, repression and much else.  Now we are recording a documentary and writing a book of their stories.

Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, Algeria, Chair and Founder of the Caux Forum

In his diplomatic career, Mohamed Sahnoun was called on to help resolve many conflicts including, as UN Special Representative, in Somalia and the Great Lakes region of Africa. He discovered that healing of memory is crucial to sustainable peace.

Healing is possible, as he knows from his own experience. During the Algerian struggle for independence from France he was tortured by the French colonial authorities. Yet in his diplomatic career he worked closely with French colleagues. 'He rarely speaks of his experiences of suffering,' says Cornelio Sommaruga who, as head of the international Red Cross, worked with Sahnoun. 'But they heighten his determination to protect the vulnerable, and to offer everyone an opportunity to help in that task.'

'Many bear the scars of an unresolved past,' Sahnoun told the Forum – 'a past, often with blurred images, that seeps into the present and prevents societies reaching the trust that is vital to constructing a common future. They cannot let go of the trauma that has affected their lives and those of their loved ones, sometimes in earlier generations. They need to know what happened, why it happened and who carried out these acts. And they need society to recognize their grief.'


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