On Thursday evening I attended a presentation by two extraordinary people from Sierra Leone. Paramount Chief Alfred Banya who is the Chair of Fambul Tok’s Moyamba District Executive Committee and his sister, Micheala Ashwood who is the National Coordinator of Fambul Tok’s growing network of peace mothers’ groups.
They told a remarkable story about how the slow process of rebuilding fractured communities after the civil war is being supported by the simple act of storytelling around a bonfire. ‘Holding the space so people can talk.”
Of course, it is not a process that guarantees success, but successful it is by any measure.
It reminded me how important it is for all human beings to have the chance to tell their story of how the dispute has affected them. In a moving video presentation, people maimed and bereft of family and friends as a result of the atrocities carried out by their neighbours and family members were able to forgive, if not forget. Storytelling can achieve that kind of reconciliation and there is a place for it in all disputes and conflict.
We shouldn’t lose sight of this and make the mediation process so focussed on money, legal merits or outcome that we forget the deeply human need to share stories of disappointment, betrayal, lost hope and humiliation with our fellow human beings, especially with those we feel need to know.