Globe in Peace is a priority project operating within Simon Fraser University (SFU) to continue the work of Masahiro Minami, PhD on conflict reconciliation with a goal of peace building and war prevention.
When is forgiveness too much to ask? And where can you go from there?
Our history includes many stories of genocide: Rwanda 1994, Bosnia 1992 – 1995 , Darfur 2003 – 2005. Violence also permeates our communities, in every country world wide.
With each war or violent act, the seeds of hostility, revenge, anger and fear are passed down from one generation to the next, unless we can break this cycle.
Traditional Reconciliation Methods
The traditional method to help good people to reconcile themselves to acts of violence perpetrated upon them and ultimately to the perpetrator, is by talking about it. Eventually the victim is asked to Forgive. This process can be of great benefit for the victim, but this method has its limits. Looking around the world we know, it is not enough.
One victim whose husband and son were murdered in a violent attack, after many years of grieving and hours of therapy expressed this frustration to the perpetrator,
You have taken my husband and son from me, and now you want something more from me … you want my forgiveness. I cannot, I have nothing left to give to you.
Dr. Masahiro Minami has worked in clinical counselling for many years and empathized with his clients’ pain. He has traveled to previous war-torn areas of the world and witnessed the emotional scars that affect people’s lives many years after the conflict ended. During Minami’s work on his masters degree he learned about a traditional Japanese therapy approach called Morita Therapy. Building on this established therapy, Dr. Minami developed a unique and innovative reconciliation method called ABPRA, which stands for Action-Based Psychosocial Reconciliation Approach.
Under the ABPRA approach, the victim is not required to forgive, only to receive labour from the perpetrator. The participants work together in an activity for the benefit of the victim.
To test ABPRA, his new reconciliation method, Dr. Minami traveled to Rwanda.
In 1994, the ethnic Hutu extremists in Rwanda initiated a genocidal attempt against Tutsis and other minorities and slaughtered over 800,000 people in just 100 days.
The captured and imprisoned perpetrators were later released, with nowhere to go except back to their own home communities. They returned to live in the same Rwandan villages where the violent acts occurred in 1994, to live among the surviving family members of the murdered victims.
How does one forgive such things? Often they cannot. There were many instances of revenge killing in Rwanda and grenade attacks still continue today.
Dr. Minami worked in Rwanda for a year, establishing his credentials with local government, building relationships with community leaders and winning the trust of 16 people who agreed to participate in the ABPRA pilot trials. This study was well documented and analyzed. Being the subject of his doctoral dissertation, it was scrutinized by many highly regarded, world-class professors at University of British Columbia and University of Oxford.
These are some of Dr. Minami’s observations and some comments made by the participants during the study.
On the first day I saw him as a killer. I could not bring myself to see him as a human being at that time.
– Lawurencia M.
I was surprised. I didn’t think he would agree to make bricks. It is exhausting work.
I should fear him, but my fear is disappearing because we always meet and work together.
– Lawurencia N.
What if Lawrence and I hadn’t met again? I’d be a beast … a bad creature that fears people. Meeting Lawrence chased away the beast and brought back joy.
Dr. Minami’s Comments
The perpetrators are shunned by the people of the village, they are often drunk, in part to deal with their shame. On the days he comes to participate in the study and work for the victim, he is sober, clean and ready to work.
– Dr. Minami
The ABPRA study was very successful, based on the reported results of the participants and the observations of Dr. Minami. So much so that the local village elders have continued to use the ABPRA method in their villages after the study was complete.
Next Stage – The Project
In order for the substantial benefits of ABPRA to be realized, large organizations and governments need proof that this method works before they will commit substantial resources and implement ABPRA in a large-scale program.
ABPRA worked very well in the plot test. Now Globe In Peace is preparing for a large-scale test, with over 1,000 individuals taking part. These participants will be paired based on their previous relationship of victim and perpetrator. This sample size is large enough to statistically confirm that ABPRA is effective.
This is the goal of Globe In Peace, to raise the funds required to conduct a large-scale test of ABPRA, to study the results and to provide statistical proof that ABPRA works.