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 ???).
A: That is the real struggle. And it's a real struggle related to trauma. How you find ceremonies and rituals for a whole nation? You are aware of a lot of our conflicts today or have been in the last decade, which have been within states, not necessarily across boarders although we've had some of them. We have some strange things going on today but within those borders conflict destroys in weeks and months relationships and buildings and entire cities.
My wife is from Vukovar, Croatia, a city that was completely destroyed in a three-month period. That is what you see and how do you re-build, not only the physical structures, but the emotional and relational links between people. It's very, very difficult. We have to find mechanisms in the larger societies that will draw people together. Of course economics draws people together.
There is a place called Arizona in Bosnia-Herzegovina it's right at the border of Croatia, the Republic of Serbsca which is part of the Bosnia-Herzegovina where Serbs, Croats and Muslims can come together. This place has actually become a small city now because people have to live and they have to trade. It's a great economy but it's also helped people to come together. The majority of people in this situation would tell me, "If we just take care of this at higher echelon of people that are manipulating us for power, we can live across these ethnic divides quite well." There are all these things that happen. We have to have economics. We have to have the political and social infrastructures re-established in creative ways.
I'm also convinced too, and we haven't done a lot of this, you don't see it across the conflicts in our world, where ritualistically things have been done that have been part of that whole re-building and remembering and re-establishment of relationship. I do know, and this had a political overtone to it, in Uganda there was a ceremony ten years after their civil war, where the mortal remains that were scattered across the land that were still visible and obviously not buried by relatives and not known. They were brought into Kampala the capital and a huge ceremony took place that was on national television. Thousands of people participated in that with the religious and traditional leaders doing the ritualistic ceremony of burying these bones. I think that again it had some political overtone. However, that sort of thing done well is what we need to do more of as part of the reconstructing and re-establishing of relationships in these post-war settings. We also have to work in a way that's better coordinated. That is, the various NGOs, I forget how many hundreds of NGOS were in Sarajevo, and we would have weekly meetings and there were some cooperations.
Q: Meeting between all the NGOs?
A: Yeah, not all the NGOS, but a lot of them. There was some discussion about how we could work together. The UN would generally bring these groups together. But I think that is a piece that really needs to be worked on. We need to find good facilitator coordinators that will bring people together and ask, "How can you work more effectively together" Why are we duplicating this work? How can we work in tandem? How can our gifts and skills be woven together?"
In the world of realpolitik and reality you have the funding organizations behind that particular NGO that have a particular agenda and mandate. Some of that is changing over time and I am really thankful that there is more cooperation and partnering, not just of the international communities but the local ones as well. That is something for peace building. Part of that cooperation and partnering, for me, needs to have the component of trauma recovery, with a recognition that trauma recovery and justice and peacebuilding go together and as do justice and peacebuilding, trauma recovery contends.