Dealing with the past


The program was roughly developed in advance, but I left space for joint changes during the work in order to adjust to the specific needs of the people present in the group. It was as follows:

Day 1

  • Introduction of the group and participants

  • Wall paper: When I hear of the term DwP I think of…

  • Small groups: What bothers me in stories about the war? Presentations in plenary.

    • Second step: What is missing in them?

  • How the society I live in treat the past?

Day 2

There were changes in the people who attended. Some of the people wanted to participate at several Theme groups (which were held at the same time) so we had majority of new people. A smaller number of people stayed in this group only. This brought its specifics which I will write about in the conclusions at the end.

  • Destructive & constructive DwP.

  • Presentation on the Exhibition of the Arpillera and other textile exhibition1 held by Roberta Bacic. Followed by round discussion

  • What is destructive DwP? Second step: What is constructive DwP? Followed by presentation in plenary and discussion.

Day 3

There were fewer, and some different people, so further adjustments in the methodology needed to be made on the spot. Issues we discussed:

  • Denial – relativization – searching for truth:

    • Who are the carriers of this process?

    • Why is a certain approach it being used?

    • What are the consequences for society in using each of the approaches?

  • Coping with personal experiences

  • Roles in conflict which they/we take; rotation of roles and difficulties to state them clearly.

Day 4

It was a small group which attended, consisted of few people who attended every day so far, so, even small in number, it allowed us to go deeper and a bit more far:

  • What is my biggest challenge in reconciliation?

  • With whom should I reconcile?

  • What and whom I can / want / should forgive?

  • From whom do I want and need forgiveness?

  • What (can) I do to contribute to DwP?

  • What dilemmas I have, what fears?

  • Who are my enemies?

  • Where is my support?

Conclusions and lessons learned

Considering the organizational problems caused by the visa issues for the original convener Dora Urujeni, I’m very much satisfied that we managed to keep the theme group at all. After all, we were in South Africa it would have been a pitty not to have a group on DwP at all. In this situation Roberta Bacic, who used to work in WRI office on The DWP program some years ago, stepped in and helped to carry out the Theme group. The group was diverse in many ways:

  • There were majority of people coming from different African countries (South Africa, Liberia, Nigeria,…) as well as some people from Europe and USA. It offered great opportunity for sharing of experience on such a scale, which is extremely rare and it was an amazing opportunity;

  • Some people had personal experiences with the war, some were direct participants, some were not, one was ex-combatant (kidnapped as a child and mobilized in an armed group);

  • Some of the people had very strong personal experiences from the wars of their past, some were already coming from activist groups, and some from academia;

  • Some of the people had strong need to focus the group work on how to cope with personal traumas and some had more interest to work on our role as activists on the issue;

Some of the diversities were beautifully enriching and empowering and some come out as a challenge. Furthermore, having the situation in which a good number of people switched Theme groups the challenge was to go with the program in an open way. It was already demanding to expect from people to open up in a group of unknown people for such a difficult subject, even more it was if they change every day. Since the ‘core’ group of few people which were coming every day to the same group was those with strong personal experiences, I have a feeling that we managed to create a safe space for that kind of sharing. The diverse of the group, which included activists as well as ex-combatant for me was the strongest point of our work. This opened space for understanding of personal contexts we all come from and opened possibilities for empathy and future solidarity. This was also a key point enabling us to look into role(s) a person can (or sometimes even must) take during a conflict and enabled us to go to the point of personal responsibility each of us carries afterwards. I have a feeling that we unpacked some things, enabled sharing and maybe packed again some other things at the end. Personally I can say that it enriched me beyond words at this point.




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