World in Need of Reconciliation and Healing

The idea of healing by openly exposing hitherto hidden truths that have caused immense suffering to so many people across the world is not new, the hope being that such candid revelations publicly made would constitute a kind of collective catharsis

By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee

The latest that I have come across about the Ukrainian war is that President Zelensky has declared that he is now prepared to consider neutrality, that is not tilt towards the West – US and Europe – or towards Russia, and not push for NATO membership which would automatically mean being pro-West.In this regard, it is now public knowledge that Ukraine joining NATO was never going to be a walk-over, despite Zelensky’s expectation, wish or hope. In fact, the process is now pushed back even further because after the war has started there are so many conditions that must be met by Ukraine.

Paradoxically, Finland and Sweden which had maintained neutrality so far have now applied to join NATO. Apparently, this is being considered favourably, and the adhesion may not be far away. It is worth noting that Russia has declared that should this happen, it mustn’t be expected that there will be no response from its side. Does this mean the opening of another theatre of war in Europe? Is that what has all the while been implied by the constant drumming about World War III?

Already, that conflict is impacting the whole world adversely on so many fronts – supply of sunflower oil, wheat, raw materials, petrol and gas, with prices shooting up everywhere and causing great hardship across the board. As regards petrol and gas, it appears that surreptitiously European countries continue to be supplied from Russia, for which they are paying in billions of dollars or rubles, and this is obviously allowing the perpetuation of the war, a classic case of positive feedback.

All countries have therefore a vested interest in seeing an end to this mayhem as soon as possible – although those who are profiting from it may not agree. The question that arises is whether it could have been prevented. At least to me this possibility seems to have existed – if only at the outset President Zelensky had anticipated the Russian intention and the ferocity of its assault, and chosen THEN rather than NOW to opt for neutrality, as former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger had put forward, andapparently that was the Russian stance too. That opportunity having been lost, what can be done now? Has President Zelensky officially communicated his revised position to the Russian President?

That is certainly a crucial step, because it should be clear that for the sake of the whole world there is now a great need for reconciliation and healing between these two warring parties, whether by direct negotiation – which would probably be better – or by intermediaries, which would mean US and NATO pitching in. It is for these two brother-countries to decide what is best for them, but there can be no gainsaying that it is high time to stop the destruction and unnecessary deaths of innocents on both sides of the divide.

Truth commissions

The idea of healing by openly exposing hitherto hidden truths that have caused immense suffering to so many people across the world is not new, the hope being that such candid revelations on the part of the victims as well as the perpetrators publicly made would constitute a kind of collective catharsis that would then lead to reconciliation. Thus, the setting up of Truth & Reconciliation or Justice Commissions with a broad mandate that goes beyond the purely legal to touch the core human dimension.

Perhaps the most well known in recent times, other than our own Truth and Justice Commission, is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was set up in 1995 in South Africa to hear witnesses’ accounts of their experiences of apartheid. It was chaired by the iconic Bishop Desmond Tutu who passed away recently, but he was no doubt the most appropriate person to occupy that office. The outcome may not have been as much as expected, but at least it hopefully set the people thinking about what happens when there is a permanent atmosphere of antagonism and enmity that is created by one party that seeks to dominate the other, and not allow such a situation to ever occur again.

There have been such commissions set up elsewhere earlier, such as in the US, as is detailed in an article ‘The impossible task of truth and reconciliation’ in Vox News byJenKirbyjen on March 24, 2022, ‘to look at the effects of slavery and institutional racism in America.’ It is worth pondering what he writes:

‘There is no one-size-fits-all truth commission, but in the past 50 years, this form of transitional justice has become a common tool to help societies move away from war or authoritarianism. More than 40 countries have used them in the aftermath of a major rupture — the fall of a dictatorship, a civil war, a genocide,’ and alludes to the TRC of South Africa.

Further, he continues, ‘The best truth commissions, experts say, are those that center victims, specifically the people or communities most marginalized by abuses or atrocities. This often means giving victims or their descendants a chance to testify, sometimes publicly, about how abuse or oppression affected them or their communities. Sometimes, commissions invite perpetrators, too, to testify or admit their roles in violence or abuse. Sometimes, they are there solely to bear witness to the harm they’ve caused.

‘“Victims” and “perpetrators” are black-and-white terms for situations that are almost always more complicated, and those distinctions can blur in times of war and oppression. Truth commissions exist because they deal with issues that are too big and too systemic to fit into the parameters of, say, a criminal trial. They operate under a radical concept: that all of society has a right to fully know what happened, and how, and why. They expose the extent of the atrocities and aim to unravel what allowed them to happen, in the hope that the knowledge could prevent them from happening again.’

Inconvenient truths

Apart from Ukraine-Russia, there are other countries and regions where TRCs are urgently needed to prevent descent into mayhem, and each case has to be dealt with separately. Syria comes to mind, as well as Yemen/Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and India where currently there is much animosity between the two main communities, Hindus and Muslims, because of inconvenient truths that are being revealed by archaeological and other findings, currently concerning the Gyanwapi mosque-mandir in Varanasi. Such findings — among other ones –laboriously and meticulously discovered, collected, documented and presented by archaeologistKK Mohammad to the Supreme Court when the case was being examined helped immensely to set to rest once for all the Ram Mandir issue at Ayodhya.

With a desire to stick to truths similarly revealed by established scientific and archaeological methods in the case of the Gyanvapi mosque-mandir, and goodwill on both sides, there is no reason why an outcome akin to the Ayodhya one cannot be reached.

In this respect, two very well-articulated and sober articles in the Indian press rise above the din and provide very balanced insights that can contribute to the way forward towards reconciliation and healing. They are ‘Beyond Politics, Gyanvapi Is About The Hindu Civilisation’ in Swarajyamagazine of May 16, 2022 by Taushar Gupta, sub-editor, and ‘The Places of Worship Act is a generous law. Indian Muslims can best reciprocate this generosity by adhering to the Quranic morality in Gyanvapi Masjid’s case,’ by Ibn Khaldun Bharati in The Print of 17 May, 2022.

Yes, the whole world is in great need of reconciliation and healing.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 20 May 2022

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