On engaging with truths we disbelieve in, esp for post-conflict reconciliation

In a society where competing versions of truth chafe and collide, what is important is to remain open to and to engage with each side’s views. Violence, as Robben and Nordstrom underscore, “is . . . an intricately layered phenomenon. Each participant, each witness to violence, brings his or her own perspective.”24 This is certainly the case in BiH where three quintessentially ethnic versions of truth exist—the Bosnian Muslim, the Bosnian Serb, and the Bosnian Croat—and each version of truth must be explored. It may be difficult to listen to opinions that some interviewees express. A Serb interviewee in the eastern Bosnian town of Bratunac, for example, insisted that the 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys killed in neighboring Srebrenica in July 1995 are all still alive, and a Bosnian Croat interviewee in Ahmići claimed that the HVO’s 1993 attack on the village was militarily justified and that what occurred was a “fair fight.”25 Yet it is part of the research process to assess and to endeavor to fathom why people hold such views. According to Kriesberg, truth is “an important dimension of reconciliation since members of antagonistic sides tend to deny what members of the other side experience and believe to be true.”26 The process of examining and attempting to fully understand competing versions of truth can thus shed important light on a significant obstacle to reconciliation, as well as potentially offer valuable insights into how that obstacle may be addressed and perhaps ultimately overcome with time.

–Janine Natalya Clark, “Fieldwork and its Ethical Challenges: Reflections from Research in Bosnia,” p. 529-530 (bolding mine)

Also, this

…In a town where the two ethnic groups are living on opposite sides of an invisible line that bifurcates the town and where one group is generally far more open and helpful, it is not always easy to view both groups in the same way and to avoid seeing one group through the lens of “otherness.” This is why, contrary to some arguments,13 divided towns are not conducive to anything more than negative peace.14 By keeping former enemies divided and limiting physical contact, divided towns are a fundamental obstacle to building trust and reconciliation.15

is exactly why projects like this are so unbelievably important, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and elsewhere. Sometimes it takes some glitter and puppets to get people to step outside the lines.


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