Good news: Yugoslavia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission

By Jan Oberg

TFF PressInfo 139 – December 11, 2001

Originally published here.

 

At least three recent pieces of good news from the Balkans have passed virtually unnoticed:

– Yugoslavia has established a Commission for Truth and Reconciliation.

– Dr. Ibrahim Rugova’s and LDK’s election victory opens new prospects for reconciliation in Kosovo/a.

– Non-violence has proved to be stronger than police repression and authoritarian rule in Serbia and stronger than extremist violence by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) in Kosovo.

Contrary to violence and war, non-violence and opportunities for reconciliation don’t make it to the headlines. As a matter of fact, they don’t make it to the media at all. Destructive news furthers pessimism and the feeling of powerlessness. Constructive or good news furthers the opposite and signals that peace may, in spite of all, be possible. In short, those in power, as well as power-loyal media, naturally prefer the former rather than the latter.

These three news items contain important evidence that should begin a debate about the lessons to be learned by the international community regarding its conflict-management in the Balkans since 1991. Regrettably, such a debate – broad-based, democratic and multi-ethnic – does not yet exist.

TFF PressInfo 139, 140 and 141 will deal with each of these news items. PressInfo 142 will address why reconciliation inside Kosovo is absolutely essential for the future.

 

A few words about reconciliation and forgiveness

Every hope for peace in the Balkans, as well as in every other war-torn region, rests on the willingness of the local parties to eventually reach out and deal openly with what happened and why. Reconciliation is not about forgetting. It is about learning to live with the facts, the memory and the pain. It takes two or more people and it can be achieved neither by loans and credits, reconstruction of houses, nor by people in uniform or promises about future integration in international organisations.

Reconstruction of souls is ‘soft.’ It takes much longer time than other types of post-war reconstruction. We have no international ‘armies’ or pools of experts and specialised humanitarian workers on stand-by anywhere.

The other human dimension of post-war healing is forgiveness. It’s basically a unilateral initiative. I decide to forgive someone who has killed my loved ones or hurt me because I consciously want to free myself from the all-absorbing hate; I abstain from the ‘right’ or wish to retaliate or get revenge . I thereby signal that I say ‘no’ to these options in order to invite others to do the same. We can choose to forgive for the sake of our own healthy living in the future or because we recognise that is what will help future generations to live together with tolerance and respect. [Read more…]

Advertisements