Healing through Buddhism
Around 90% of the Cambodian believes in Buddhism, so the monks play a key role as the mediators between victims and perpetrators. The most important aspect of “Healing through Buddhism” is the idea to involve young monks in the process of getting the former KR to talk about their past experience. Many of the former KR still hesitate to talk openly and give testimonies.
The ten-day-long workshops have been done in an interactive way, including a plurality of participatory methods. The topics include KR history, Transitional Justice mechanisms, monk peace building movements in Asia, the role of the monks in dealing with the former KR, and setting up actions plans for the monks to act as multipliers.
During a period of eight months, more than 500 young monks have been trained as multipliers. They are by now conducting their own workshops in the local communities about the topics they were trained in.
Feedback of one former KR in Battambang, February 2010: “I felt like walking in the desert, not having anymore water to drink and than the monk came and gave me some water, helping me to find ways to deal with my past”. See more photos here.
Understand, Remember and Change workshop
The interactive three to four - days ‘Understand, Remember and Change’ workshops firstly aims to help youth raise questions and engage in discussions about the sociopolitical, economic, and ideological factors regarding the Khmer Rouge experiences.
Secondly the URC workshops promote holistic understanding of a diversity of historical narratives as they give equal space to the stories documenting the experiences of both the victims and perpetrators.
The last section of the URC workshop is on how to move on to the future. This section introduces the concept of reconciliation to youth not as “forgive and forget” - which has been the dominant message in Cambodia - but as a variety of different meanings referring on different cultural contexts. It introduces other countries’ experiences with mass violence and their ways of dealing with it. The workshops also touches upon the steps taken since the end of the Khmer Rouge to deal with the crimes committed during the KR period and focuses on the forthcoming tribunal process, introducing its mandate, procedures and possible benefits and pitfalls in ways that are understandable and relevant to youth.
In the reflection focus group discussion, most of the youth recognized the value of the Youth for Justice and Reconciliation project that provides the Khmer Rouge history education to them. It contributes to establishing the accurate history of the past of Cambodia and to prevent the rise of such atrocity situations again in this country.
After the workshops, participants also explore the topic for themselves by searching reading, listening and discussing with others about the Khmer Rouge history, reconciliation and of course about the Extraordinary Chamber in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) proceedings. We often get requests from participants for further reading materials about Khmer Rouge topics and we provide them with our publications.
Our activities clearly have a snowball effect as not only the participants learn from the project. The youth who participated in the workshop are able to share what they learned with other people in their families, schools and in their communities as well. See more photos here.
Study tour to Phnom Penh to former mass killing places and ECCC
All of those who attended the eleven-day-long workshops in the provinces, about 250 participants each year are chosen to come to Phnom Penh and visit the former mass killing place Cheung Ek, the former KR prison Toul Sleng and ECCC. During the study tour, the intergenerational group has time to discuss and reflect their impressions. With the new gained knowledge, they are more empowered to work in their communities towards collective Memory.
One older woman from Kampong Chhnang said:
It was my first time to be here in the ECCC. I had the chance to listen to the Khmer Rouge leader who killed people and spoke without closing his eyes while answering the questions of the judges. I knew a lot of new update information from the court. All the information is very important for me when I come back home. I can tell to my family and friends about the court room setting and how the trial is proceeding. See more photos here.
Since 2007 many intergenerational Community dialogues has been carried out by YFP. It gives the youth and the elderly people the space to have a deep dialogue about their personal experiences during KR time, their feelings towards dealing with the past, and opens up a broader understanding about the consequences of the KR period. In the discussions strategies come up how the youth can take action in their communities regarding peace building topics.
The dialogues take place at villages, mostly in the Buddhist pagodas. Within these dialogues committee members, teachers, youth who participated in the URC workshops and older residents (survivors) actively participate.
Sari, 58 former Khmer Rouge: “I decided to tell my story as I am old and I believe that the young generation won’t know about the Khmer Rouge if we don’t tell them”.
Art Workshop, Public Exhibition and Peace Theater
YFP is a Cambodian NGO which applies alternative methods and works on the community level in the process of coming to terms with the past. The targeted people use art work as the tool for expressing their local violent histories and to critically envision for peace in the future. One module of the eleven-day-long outreach is the art workshops. During and after painting sessions, there is space for dialogue between generations. Through public exhibitions in the communities, the paintings are brought into a broader public context.
During the exhibition day, YFP trained students perform their own Peace Theater play about how they understood the KR time and what kind of lessons they had learnt. Peace Theater has creative power to touch people’s hearts and to evoke deep understanding. It is an innovative and effective conflict transformation tool that enables people to raise issues and find new solutions in post conflict zones.
“I participated in the art workshop and painted about my husband who was killed in the Khmer Rouge regime. I was very happy because many participants and visitors were impressed by my painting. I have never expressed my story through such a painting before”, said Ms. So Phan, 60 years. See more photos here.
Trips to local former mass killing places
There are about 343 former killing places containing over 19,440 mass graves in Cambodia. Some of these memory places are stupas with skulls as evidences of the KR time; some of the places are used as farmland today. On the sites without stupas, history is easily forgotten as nothing remains and reminds of the KR history. None of the local memory places displays detailed information about what really took place at those sites during the KR period.
YFP brings the youth and the survivors to those places in order to provide space for remembrance, acknowledgement and discussion. These processes shall educe new ideas how to give these sites more significance for local history and remembrance.