Ecumenical Leaders to Discuss Effects of Bad 'Memories' on Healing Nations

Conflict-affected nations and their struggles to cope with the legacies of massive human rights violations are at the heart of the ecumenical consultation "Healing of Memories – Reconciling Communities" to take place in Dublin, Ireland, this week.

During the four-day gathering, the bloody conflict in Northern Ireland, the crimes committed under the apartheid regime in South Africa and under communist rule in eastern Germany, mass killings perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and by the Guatemalan military during a 35 year long civil war will all come under the spotlight.

The Oct. 1-4 consultation has been co-organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Irish School of Ecumenics and will gather some thirty international academics and reconciliation practitioners at the Dominican retreat center in Tallaght, Dublin.

Drawing on the five case studies, the ecumenical consultation will assess best practices and seek to establish a summary or manual that would help churches, civil society groups and policy makers to understand the needs and options of community healing.

The five cases tell a tale of how memories of past injustices can haunt communities for decades. These memories "continue to influence the lives and policies of societies in negative or positive manners depending on the ways in which they are being dealt with," says Dr Geiko Müller-Fahrenholz, the coordinator of the WCC's International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC).

Communities affected by violence are often marked by the partiality and selectivity of memories. In this context, Dr. Manoj Kurian, WCC program executive for health and healing, calls to mind the literal meaning of the English verb "to remember."

"It speaks of the act of putting together those 'members' that have been dis-membered," Kurian says. "'Healing' has to do with overcoming the damaging effects of 'dismemberment'."

The consultation, themed "Healing of Memories - Reconciling Communities," is part of the preparatory process leading up to the IEPC in 2011.