Back to RJ Archive

A new commission for restorative justice to deal with difficult past practices of abuse and violence in Sri Lanka

May 9, 2010

….Perhaps in the situation that Sri Lanka is now trying to address it would be useful to recall some other attempts by other countries to go in this direction. In the years following the Second World War the German society was faced with a period of severe psychological and social problems in dealing with its own immediate past. For many in Germany it became a problem to realise that they were capable of falling into the trap of supporting a terrible dictator as their own leader. Many would recall that their own families followed Adolf Hitler with admiration at some point in time. For many the fact that their own children became soldiers in the Nazi army and were capable of carrying out atrocities towards people of their own country, such as the Jews, and the people of other countries as they were engaged in a war was also a severe trauma to deal with. How was it possible that what they once considered to be ideal and the natural way of doing things had gone so wrong?

With the sheer incapacity to deal with these problems many people thought it better to simply forget about such things and to begin a new way of living. However, the past that the people are involved in is not something that can be forgotten so easily.

An extremely talented psychologist, Alexander Mitscherlich realised that many people who came to him for treatment were not really suffering from any identifiable illness. After long years of clinical work he realised that their illnesses were a product of their inability to mourn their past. Mitscherlich and his wife Margarete, wrote a famous book which was translated into English under the title, Principles of Collective Behaviour—the Inability to Mourn, which was based on their experiences of this time. This book, which later became a household item deals with the enormous need for human beings to mourn the social wrongs that people commit collectively as much as the people have the need to mourn in the face of personal tragedies. Social tragedies leave deep impressions in the inner self of human beings living at a certain time as do the personal tragedies in the lives of people.

Read the whole statement.

Also, see Sri Lanka: The Asian Human Rights Commission cautiously welcomes the move for the appointment of a commission for truth and reconciliation.


AsiaBlog PostPost-Conflict ReconciliationRJ in Schools
Support the cause

We've Been Restoring Justice for More Than 40 Years

Your donation helps Prison Fellowship International repair the harm caused by crime by emphasizing accountability, forgiveness, and making amends for prisoners and those affected by their actions. When victims, offenders, and community members meet to decide how to do that, the results are transformational.

Donate Now