Monthly Archives: April 2014

Portraits of Reconciliation

Pieter Hugo’s photo series entitled Portraits of Reconciliation, powerfully documents the ongoing process of healing that has followed the Rwandan genocide. In the photos, Hutu perpetrators of genocide stand next to the Tutsi survivor of their crime who has granted them pardon. Below each photograph is a quote from both perpetrator and survivor explaining their role in the genocide and in the reconciliation process currently underway. The following is one example:

Dominique Ndahimana (perpetrator): “The day I thought of asking pardon, I felt unburdened and relieved. I had lost my humanity because of the crime I committed, but now I am like any human being.”

Cansilde Munganyinka (survivor): “After I was chased from my village and Dominique and others looted it, I became homeless and insane. Later, when he asked my pardon, I said: ‘I have nothing to feed my children. Are you going to help raise my children? Are you going to build a house for them?’ The next week, Dominique came with some survivors and former prisoners who perpetrated genocide. There were more than 50 of them, and they built my family a house. Ever since then, I have started to feel better. I was like a dry stick; now I feel peaceful in my heart, and I share this peace with my neighbors.”

This is just one of many examples which are documented in the series. What is most striking about this project—besides the images of victim and perpetrator standing together with some even holding hands—is the theme of forgiveness and healing. Contrasting our own justice system in the U.S for a moment, victims rarely receive the kind of justice documented here. For example, the victims of genocide were empowered with the decision to grant their perpetrators pardon. As the quote above illustrates, it was the victim who identified the harm that required repair, and it was up to the perpetrator to follow through with the difficult task of attending to the needs of his victim. Forgiveness was a major part of this process, but it was conceptualized differently by each participant. Some victims remained close to those who had perpetrated violence against them following the reconciliation process while others chose to grant pardon, and nothing else. The survivors’ testimonies reveal that when a harm is acknowledged in full, requiring complete honesty on the part of the perpetrator to take full responsibility for their actions, healing and reparation can take place.

The bravery and strength displayed by the survivors in the Rwandan reconciliation process is admirable and inspirational. It is imperative that those involved in criminal justice reform activities explore what this work means for us in the U.S as we struggle to develop effective ways of reducing recidivism and meaningful ways of addressing the needs of victims.

Pieter Hugo’s work can be found, here.

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Creative Interventions: Community-Based IPV Intervention

The Mission of Creative Interventions is to create community-based options for interventions to interpersonal violence. Creative Interventions provides collective, creative, and flexible solutions, which take into account the realities and resources of each situation and community. By bringing knowledge and power back to those closest to and most impacted by violence, Creative Interventions breaks isolation and clears the path towards holistic, viable and sustainable systems of violence intervention and community health.

Established in 2004, Creative Interventions is an innovative and powerful resource for survivors and advocates who have experienced frustration and failure with current responses to intimate partner violence (IPV). Mimi Kim, founder of Creative Interventions, reports that after working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault for over 15 years she began to ask herself challenging questions related to the assumptions underlying traditional intervention strategies.

“After taking hundreds of crisis calls from survivors of domestic violence, I realized that I always asked the questions, Have you thought of leaving? Did you call the police? Why did my solutions assume that leaving was the only option? Why did they assume that the best way to achieve safety was to call the police? Why weren’t there any other options?”

This is an indispensable resource for everyone who works in the domestic violence field. On their website, Creative Intervention provides access to a Toolkit which outlines the community-based model for violence intervention. This toolkit can be downloaded in full, or if more appropriate, the individual intervention tools can be downloaded and tailored to fit victim and/or agency need.

For more information on the exciting work underway at Creative Interventions, please visit their website by clicking here.

To access the Toolkit, click here