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Asia and Australia (2013)

3rd International Summer School

Societies in Transition. Asia and Australia between Conflict and Reconciliation, July 17th - 27th, 2013

The international Summer School, "Societies in Transition. Asia and Australia between Conflict and Reconciliation", was greatly appreciated by the 25 participants. At first, LEINER and SCHMITZ gave a joint lecture on the innovative potential of Asian concepts of reconciliation and the role of religious approaches. They asked whether the positive acknowledgment of identity changes can have de-escalating effects in a post-conflict situation. On the second day, Prof. WEINKE lectured on the impact of the Nuremberg trials on German society after World War II and the influence of legal procedures on the process of reconciliation. She found that this influence was limited by political continuity before and after 1945 (in West Germany) and by an attitude that, for more than two decades, let the Germans see themselves as victims rather than perpetrators of World War II.

The lecture was complemented by a documentary and an excursion to Nuremberg on the next day, which included visits to the historical building where the trials were held and to the area where the NSDAP held their annual rally. The excursion led to lively discussions during the next days and helped bring together the group through informal conversations about reconciliation concepts and strategies in diverse cultural contexts.

With regard to Myanmar, Prof. YIN showed that the attempted transition from military dictatorship to democracy came with continuing conflicts in some parts of the country. Afterwards, LEINER and KITANI compared reconciliation processes in Germany and Japan after World War II. While Germany began to prosecute Nazi crimes in the 1960s, Japanese officials acknowledged the historical injustice committed against its neighbors China and Korea, although these statements sometimes were seen as insufficient. Next, Prof. HAN spoke on the role of memory and education, using as an example the portrayal of violent conflicts and former 'enemies' in history textbooks in South Korea. The next two days dealt with the Indian sub-continent. Dr. FERNANDO discussed the violent conflict in Sri Lanka and different peace initiatives. He concluded that two factors are central:
the establishing and holding on to common ground between antagonistic communities (here, the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE/'Tamil Tigers') and the right to democratic self- determination, which should not be understood in separatist terms but imply acknowledgment of similar interests in the 'other' community. In this way, the common struggle for a just and fair society for all citizens is strengthened.

Ms. FEMILA spoke on the conflict between Hindus and Muslims in India, especially after the end of British colonization, and various efforts to look at the roots of the conflict. She pointed to contradictory perceptions of identity (e.g., exclusive vs. inclusive concepts of Indian citizenship) and the fusion of ethnic and religious ideas in the service of nationalism as two central obstacles on the road to conflict resolution.The next two lectures gave an evaluation of the two truth commissions in South Korea (Prof. LEE, Prof. KIM). They acknowledged positive effects (e.g., the uncovering of some serious human rights violations by the government) but also pointed out that the mandate of the commissions was politically charged, e.g. by the question of US-Korean relations. The commission was restrained, and several groups of victims of state violence were disappointed by the outcome of the process, regarding both the public acknowledgment of wrongdoing and the issue of reparations. The importance of official government acknowledgment (e.g., in the form of apology) was also underlined by the lecture of Prof. TOLLIDAY, who presented Australia's protracted conflicts over land and offered an assessment of recent efforts at coming to terms with the past regarding the historical injustice towards the native population.

The workshops provided ample opportunities for in-depth debate among the participants. Every participant attended one workshop and chose between the following topics:

  1. "The Croker Island Exodus: Reflections from the Stolen Generations" (Tolliday)
  2. "Justice and Reconciliation in Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge Regime" (Sperfeld, Noy, Oung)
  3. "Reconciliation, Trauma,and Memory" (Thesnaar)
  4. "Buddhist Perspectives on Conflict and Reconciliation - The Case of Vietnam". (Ho)

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