Eastern Mennonite University
Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003
This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).
In some ways, although this is changing and I am very pleased to note this, that usually organizations that help fund these issues are not looking in the long term. They don't have the five, ten, fifteen, or twenty-year vision that we might in the peace-building field. But more and more funding is at least being designated for three to five year periods. So it gets the process that we believe of the healing and the building and rebuilding, it gives it more time and space and were not having a six month or year deadline for results to be handed in for some evaluation forum. That's helpful, that's been an obstacle over time.
This other obstacle is the partnering element of really working in a concerted and cooperative manner with other players. Those that are doing development work or those that are doing strict punitive justice approaches within the judicial systems and those that are doing restorative justice, those that are doing other forms of peace building or those that are working in civil society. Doing more working together, that has been a barrier, and I have even suggested that we as an organization be the facilitators of and the encouragers of groups like that.
Q: You mean EMU or CARE?
A: No, I don't work for CARE anymore but the Conflict Transformation Program here. I think we have some of those gifts because we do have the ability to analyze the larger picture. We have the ability to help others do that and to help them see where the linkages are between the various NGOs that are doing different works might be and call it all peace building. Also recognizing that we all bring different skills and strategies to that. But a coordinated set of skills and strategies could be more helpful as far as I am concerned.
Q: Obstacles in terms of the people you are actually working with?
A: In different societies it's problematic to draw a lot of men into the mix. I didn't find that true in Liberia, usually the workshops were men and women in equal numbers, sometimes even more men. Again, maybe the reason there was the hierarchical society, but the women tend to play major roles in the every day peacebuilding. They have more and more openings and they need more and more openings to the second and top-level approaches to peacebuilding. That's certainly happened in different places, but more is required. I would say trying to break the barriers down that are cultural in a lot of ways and standing strong and integrating this in negative ways rather than positive ways. And of course, we see what happens with a lot of people, men in Bosnia, a lot who suppress their pain and frustrations, whatever it might be. The rate of cancer and heart attacks causing early death, it's not just that, but there are other lifestyle elements, but from my perspective that at least, is part of it.
Getting communities and the political structures to have the will to provide this space and understand the necessity of not putting a lid on a boiling cauldron. Awareness of that to begin with and that this process of recovery is important and peace building with a vision for the future and analysis of the conflict and strategies toward a more peaceful future. I think awareness and political will, to use that term, can just be community will, but there are political elements there often times, to say we really need this to happen. More is happening in that regard. I just talked to someone from Rwanda and it's the government there that is saying we need to "provent" this from happening in the future. So they have done a lot of things in terms of training and promoting local initiatives within villages. It is a traditional initiative called "Gacaca" and this is really when people are released from prison and they are being released for this purpose of going back and becoming accountable. It's a restorative justice process.It's kind of like a trial, but the idea is that the perpetrators of the violence are going back to their own community, where they may have killed and created havoc during the genocide there, and are now being released to go back and face the victims of their work. They are being tried, but in a way that creates some accountability if not a lot of accountability to what they've done and what they must do to restore the relationship to the rest of the community. I was surprised to hear my colleague who is from Rwanda, talk about this in such a positive way. He says the political will is there and it's critical in supporting top level mid level and these grassroots initiatives for the restoration of relationships. I think that type of approach is going to be critical and it obviously needs to be contextualized in many, many places. What you have in various settings in the world are people in power that want to maintain power and have no clue in a lot of ways of what is really needed to make them powerful in the most creative and constructive way. These "Gacacas" for example, in Rwanda our models that are probably going to be needed in these other settings, again, contextually.