War and conflict leave their mark on a society long after the fighting has ended. And it is often underestimated how important the process of reconciliation after the conflict is. At the "Berlin Seminar: Truth, Justice, and Remembrance," participants from more than 15 countries around the world come together to converse with German experts and visit local memorial sites.
War and conflict leave their mark on a society – even long after the fighting has ended. And it is often underestimated how important the process of reconciliation after the conflict is. Dealing with past injustices and violence is painful for everyone involved and, at the same time, it is necessary to prevent new violent conflicts from cropping up as a result of strife that is simmering under the surface. The "Berlin Seminar: Truth, Justice, and Remembrance" brings together representatives of civil and governmental organizations as well as journalists from more than 15 countries around the world who deal with cultural remembrance. They converse with German experts and visit memorial sites that remind us of various phases of recent German history. This is because Germany is recognized internationally for how it has dealt with its own past as a country.
Christoph Kreutzmüller, scientific adviser for the Berlin Seminar and organizer of the memorial site visits, encourages the participants to take a critical look at the sites and memorials: The participants are asked to scrutinize whether and why the memorial sites achieved their objective, what their objectives are, and what kinds of feelings they triggered for the observer. Some participants are from countries that are still in the middle of a conflict or that have only recently emerged from a conflict – for example, Mali, Burundi, or Syria. This enables them to get an idea of how important it is to document crimes, to recognize victims, and to constructively remember past injustices – as well as how long and arduous this process can be.
Displaying personal courage
The second component of the two-week program is the personal development of the participants and discussions where they can provide each other with advice. For this purpose, they present difficult cases from their work among the groups and work on these cases together with the help of consultants. Dealing with injustice, violence, and reconciliation requires skilled leadership, especially when a conflict is still ongoing or has only recently ended. Those involved then not only have to be willing to accept responsibility and to take on a difficult topic in the face of resistance, but they often also have to display significant personal courage.
Patricia Degueldre, an employee of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, talks about how the participants benefited from this workshop: "In particular the discourse about little successes or moments of failure with the participants from other countries expands your perspective about your own challenges, allows you to draw conclusions that go beyond your own conflict, and encourages you to keep going, even in the face of difficult circumstances." This also resulted in concrete ideas of working together beyond the confines of the seminar and of learning from one another – for example, as part of an international network of experts in the field of peace and remembrance.