Two Years Ago...I wrote a reflection of my experience in working in post-conflict Rwanda...which lead to my dissertation study, which now serves as a platform for Project 1948: peacebuilding in post-genocide communities. 

Sacred Memories are essentially communal memories. As Maurice Halbwach has argued in his seminal work The Collective Memory, all memories are communal. His main point is not that community as a collective subject remembers, or that individuals are “not authentic subjects of attribution of memory.” Rather, his point is that individuals do not remember alone but “as members of a group.” It is in society (or in a group, such as family, or a community such as a church) “that people normally acquire their memories. It is also in society that they recall, recognize and localize their memories.”

If such personal memories depend largely on community, sacred memories must depend on community all the more. One who has personally been wronged has experienced in flesh and in soul the wrong he or she remembers…Yet, the memory of it is sustained over time within a group.

It is difficult to identify the correct situations in which to apply the lesson of a particular memory.

Consider the memory of the Holocaust. A former history teacher claimed that our American nation would prevent anything like it from ever happening again. Yet, over the past two decades vigorous cultivation of the memory of the Holocaust in the West has not bothered us far enough due to the number of genocides around the globe that we as an American nation have done little about. It’s difficult to comprehend the simple act of throwing money and sympathy at a problem post-conflict.

I was in conversation with an international economist, who was giving a timeline of international happenings throughout the 1990s. One piece at a time, I started putting together a puzzle of the way our human cohort struggles to accept identity.  Communities in Rwanda and Bosnia have experienced sacred memories directly. Both countries represent those executed with almost unmatched brutality, such as slaughter of the Tutsi population in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing of the Muslim population in Bosnia. These memories shape their identity not simply as individuals but as members of these communities. Such community sustains sacred memories and revitalizes them in new contexts just as sacred memories define religious communities. Take the community away and sacred memory disappears. Take the sacred memory away and the community disintegrates.

Now (two years ago), the way I view Rwanda and Bosnia can be described by grey emotions, a transition still present between past and future. Where grey dreams run next to grey nightmares, grey hate next to grey love alongside the inverse rules of history runs a newly found desire to move forward into reconciliation, incarnated in a new generation. However, like a grey kiss that rekindles hope, such obscurity covers a grey mind.