In the Wake of Conflict

What is the state of a society in the wake of conflict? How do we understand what happened? How to heal collective trauma? Is reconciliation possible without forgiveness and apologies?

Large scale social conflicts have taken place throughout history around the world. We looked at some cases in recent history to guide us in understanding these questions.

We kicked off the discussion using the World Cafe format, i.e. Fellows rotated between tables to discuss different questions around a topic. We focused on the decades long conflict in Colombia. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up afterafter a peace deal was signed between the government and the rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) and a final report was published in 2022.


Fellows were asked to put their shoes in the Colombian Citizen and discuss the following four statements:


  • “Let bygone be bygone, there is no point in digging into the history.”
  • “Those erred need to compensate, it is irresponsible to pretend nothing had happened.”
  • “If people are willing to admit wrong-doing, they should be allowed amnesty.”
  • “Is truth-finding a condition for sustainable peace?”

Each of the above questions focuses on one key aspect of a typical Truth and Reconciliation commission in a post-conflict situation, namely truth-seeking, the right to justice, establishing reparations for victims, and guarantees of non-repetition in a reformed future.

The discussion was sobering for the Fellows. As they reflected, they agreed that there is no easy answer to any of these questions. They had to confront a lot of moral dilemmas, for example needs of individuals vs the collective’s, justice vs peace, punishment vs reconciliation. The takeaways were that each place has their unique history, culture, conflict dynamics, and there is no one size fits all framework to deal with post-conflict truth-seeking and reconciliation, it has to be context specific and supported by the people to be successful and sustainable.

This session on the first day set the scene for the Fellowship, many of the questions raised by the Fellows would be discussed in subsequent sessions of by other guest speakers