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“Forgiving the Past’: paths towards a culture of reconciliation

Rigby, Andrew
June 4, 2015

Source: (2000) IPRA Conference. Tampere August.

Trying to come to terms with a legacy of past atrocities, abuses, and criminal acts involves many difficulties and issues, writes Andrew Rigby. Many have drawn parallels between Western approaches to the treatment of victims of post-traumatic stress disorder and ways in which a society might deal with its history of trauma. The notion is that, if people are able to remember and tell their story in a secure environment, they will be able to excise the trauma and build a new life on stronger foundations. Rigby is skeptical of this approach; he thinks it likely that people who want to relive past traumas by talking about them have a core identity as a victim. While acknowledging the importance of not forgetting historical injustices and atrocities, he argues that it is possible to have too much memory. That is, too much concern with remembering the past can mean that old divisions and conflicts never end and wounds never heal. From this perspective, Rigby explores the question of addressing the past in a constructive, future-oriented manner. In this paper, then, he examines alternative modes of dealing with the pain of the past as a basis for future reconciliation.


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