Reconciliation after Genocide, Mass Killing, or Intractable Conflict: Understanding the Roots of Violence, Psychological Recovery, and Steps toward a General Theory



This article explores psychological avenues to reconciliation between groups. It describes the psychological changes in survivors, perpetrators, and passive bystanders in the course of the evolution of increasing violence and points to healing from the psychological wounds created as an essential component of reconciliation. It also explores the role of understanding the roots of genocide, and of violence between groups in general, in contributing to healing, to the creation of a shared history in place of the usually contradictory histories held by groups that have been in violent conflict, and to reconciliation in general. The role of processes that have been emphasized in the literature on reconciliation, such as truth, justice, and contact between groups are discussed. Bottom up approaches focusing on the population and top down approaches involving leaders and the media, and the importance of changes in institutions and structures are discussed. The article exemplifies many of the issues and processes by a discussion of the genocide in Rwanda, and by the description of interventions, ranging from work with small groups, including leaders and the media, to radio programs that aimed to further reconciliation, as well as research evaluating an intervention.