In yesterday’s session I particularly loved how Prof. Elizabeth Cole made us come together as a group to discuss the various images that showed us how different communities dealt with justice and remembrance. The image for me that was personally striking was of the Comfort Woman Statue, which depicted a Korean girl looking at the Japanese embassy and the patient, modest way in which she was depicted looking directly at the people responsible for the horrors that she, as a representative of the members of her community, were subjected to.
The conversation that we had on the elements of reconciliation and the role that truth telling, justice, reparations, apologies, acknowledgement and commemorations play in the process reconciliation were important for me to understand. When we watched the documentary Pretty Village, I was equally shocked and in agony of how the person in the movie, Kemal Pervanic’s life as a community activist and Bosnian concentration camp survivor was drastically changed forever when his village was one day attacked by Serb nationalist forces. Many of those who survived the initial attack were to die or suffer terrible violence in the concentration camps that were set up nearby, while many people remain missing, their bodies unclaimed. The film, although serving as a powerful and informative reminder of the tragic horrors the members of the community were subjected to, simultaneously poses the question of what can be done to heal the wounds of this terrible conflict and how to members of the community deal with life in the midst of their tormentors and why reconciliation remains a distant dream.
Such stories, and the other short film that we watched about the lives of Quechua people where horrendous atrocities were committed in Peru between 1980 and 2000 during the armed conflict between the government and Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), a Maoist armed group. Nearly 70,000 people were killed, and thousands of others were tortured and raped. Indigenous people and those who lived in rural areas were hit in particular. The film raised questions on is it enough to have people give testimonials and has it actually unveiled the truth in the path to achieve reconciliation?
This session was transformative and talking to Pushpa in the last session about the challenges to reconciliation and understanding it through the examples of other countries and learning that reconciliation is about truth, mercy and only then can we as a society move toward reconciliation.