“Definition of Peace” Learned from the Genocide Survivors
Translation by Ms. Haruka Osada (Simon Fraser University)
Living in the developing Africa – a former battlefield and a dispute country – often makes me think what war is, and what peace is. Since my area of expertise is in dispute arbitration and reconciliation, I tend to focus on the dispute itself; as a clinical specialist, I work on my researches or clinical practices with a focus on “healing” the wounds from the dispute, especially the wounds called “psychological symptoms”, and “assisting the process of healing”. I believe I do have enough experience and knowledge about war, dispute and “symptoms”. However, I still need to learn a lot more in order to define “peace”, and in particular, drawing an image of the peaceful world.
In Rwanda, I am working on several different researches beside administering the action-based reconciliation program integrating Morita Therapy. One of them is an attempt of thinking and understanding war and peace through interviewing the Genocide survivors and victims in rural villages.
My final goal is to gather the interview footage of 200 people, and so far, I have interviewed 30 participants. The most of them call the Genocide “the war”. I started this project thinking that they may know the true “definition of war and peace”, as they experienced “the war”.
I have learned countless things through their responses so far. I would like to share some of them in this article.
The first question was “what is the saddest thing you experienced because of the war?”. I received so many different responses.
One man I interviewed was a businessman before the war. He lost his factory, buildings, machineries, and employees because of the incident. Before the war, he lived in affluence and he was able to contribute to his village that he loves. The war left him having to start from the beginning all over again.
One woman I interviewed was a teacher. It was her purpose of life and also dream to watch the children grow healthily. But one morning, the war suddenly started; the school was destroyed, and the students were massacred. She said “from the day that the war started, I am not a teacher anymore”.
One boy was a student. He was studying hard to pursue his dream to be a doctor, but similarly, one morning, he was told by his mother that his school was destroyed and he could not go to school anymore. Even after the war, he had to survive the day and could not afford to continue studying.
Another woman lost all her children during the war. “I was a mother back then, but since that day, I became just a woman. I learned that a war can take our peaceful lives in an instant”.
The lives of all people I interviewed were changed since the day the war started. Of course, this is not strange considering the horrific experience of the Genocide, but it made me very sad hearing their stories in person. My heart ached for them.
Another thing I learned was that a war can also take people’s past and future, as well as their ordinary everyday life. Instantly, the man lost all his property, and the woman lost all her children she loved; they lost the proof and the purpose of their lives. The woman who used to be a teacher, and the boy who used to be a student lost their dreams instantly as well. For all the 30 people I interviewed, a post war recovery is still far from being achieved.
The second question was “what is your dream, or what do you wish for right now?”. All of the 30 participants hoped for getting back to their lives before the war.
The businessman already started a new business. The teacher with dreams said, with a smile, “I want to teach again in school”. The student who is already 26 years old told me, “I go to an English school learning the language, and I am pursuing my dream of becoming a doctor again”. The woman who lost her children is now married, and became a mother of two children again.
The dream of people who experienced “the war” is getting their “ordinary”, not particularly special but still precious days back in their lives. Their dream and peace itself may not relate directly, but I felt that their wish for an “ordinary life” portraits the peace they desire. For them, peace is represented by their belief in an ordinary, quiet days that everyone had before the war.
Studies of peace and disputes define “peace” as “the situation without war or conflict”, and treat it as a concept of non-conflict. However, this is not very concrete and specific to describe the peaceful world. It is not mentioned how lives would be carried on and what exists in a peaceful situation or the world.
I witnessed that the participants wish for their lives before the war, and how they defined peace in their unique ways. Maybe, peace is about “living, or being able to live your life in your way, doing what is meaningful for you”.
The definition of peace is very vague maybe because each individual is unique and different. This means that the definition is drawn by each person, and it is about finding and living “your” life. It is exactly the way of living Morita Therapy suggests; incredibly, Morita Therapy also includes the essence of the definition of peace.
On the other hand, war is losing the life and “your uniqueness” in an instant, or being them taken away from you. This is just my opinion that I formed from interviewing the survivors/victims in Rukore village.
This may be obvious to the people who experienced and survived WW2 and the post-war period, but the stories of the 30 participants really made me, as someone who never experienced a war, think about this topic, and as a researcher, a clinical psychologist and especially a human, the interviews showed the importance of “learning from someone with experiences”.
Just to add on: the third question I want to ask is “what is ‘reconciliation’ for you?”. I would like to share the responses as well once I gather sufficient data.
Ordinary Life – Living with an Appreciation for Peace
I am going to continue the interviews in Rukore village, but from what I learned so far, and my experiences and stories I heard when visiting a dozen of former battlefields in 2009, I truly feel the ordinary, quiet days that I had in Canada and Japan as such a peaceful one.
I love watching Japanese variety shows. As a little treat for myself living a life in dealing with serious clinical practices and studying extreme struggles that exhaust my nerves, I watch Japanese TV shows in my spare time. It might not be that interesting, but it refreshes my mind very well. I like its not-so-educational or academic contents, or its “silliness” in a good way; I am soothed by them. I think in my mind “Japan is such a peaceful country”, and I also think it is good that way.
As I noted in the last article, living a life includes dealing with unpleasant things. However, this is also why living is about working hard, nourishing culture, seeking for more knowledge, staying humble and enjoying a better life. In Morita Therapy, living means facing your fear to death, but because of this, it also means putting effort in fulfilling your desire for life. A variety show simply captures a scene in an ordinary life, but I have an appreciation for such a life as a person living in a country with conflicts. Maybe it represents my desire for life in which practicing clinical, doing researches and gaining life experiences in an extreme situation.
I would like to appreciate sincerely the ordinary days, peaceful Japan that the pioneers built, and the ”peaceful” culture that flourishes in such a place.