Keynotes by Pablo de Greiff, United Nations Special Rapporteur, and Fania E. Davis, co-founder of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth
UNION, N.J. –– Activists, scholars and influencers from around the world convened for an intensive multi-day Large-Scale Violence and Its Aftermaths Summer Institute, co-organized and hosted by Kean University’s Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies program. The Summer Institute, held at Kean’s Union campus from June 25-29, explored tested and contested means of dealing with collective violence and atrocities against vulnerable communities.
In his opening remarks, Kean University President Dawood Farahi, Ph.D., asked the audience to imagine what could have become of those who were killed in the Holocaust, and stressed how atrocities like those continue in present day.
“Mass violence, mass genocide and mass Holocaust, it all happened, and it is still happening. Think of Darfur, think of Cambodia, think of Armenia, think of––where I come from––Afghanistan. Genocide happens on a daily basis, mass violence happens on a monthly basis,” he said. “So what is the solution to all of that––education is probably the only antidote that we know to face these levels of atrocities. I’m glad you’re here, at Kean, to exchange ideas about this.”
Pablo de Greiff, Colombian human rights activist and United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; and Fania E. Davis, J.D., Ph.D., co-founder and executive director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, provided keynotes.
Referring to a movement promoting legal and nonlegal measures that redress legacies of human rights abuses, de Greiff asserted, “The great challenge is how do we think about transitional justice in a way that is sensitive to the context in which it now operates and at the same time, that it does not send the message that justice is a luxury that only the affluent can afford?” Continuing, he asked rhetorically, “How can we think about transitional justice in a way that is realistic, that avoids awakening expectations on the part of those who have suffered the most when we have absolutely no reason to believe that those expectations can be fully satisfied; and that, at the same time, doesn’t shortchange the rights of people who are supposed to be as real as everyone else’s?”
A lawyer, healer and warrior for justice, Davis addressed truth-telling, racial healing and reparation processes through the lens of restorative justice, which is rooted in indigenous worldviews and insights about the “primacy” of peacemaking and healing.
“We are a nation born in the blood of unspeakable terror and trauma. Genocide and slavery being the original historical wounds that we have yet to heal,” she said. “The new but old restorative justice worldview sees justice as a healing ground, not a battleground; that seeks to create more peace in the world rather than deepen social conflict,” she said, emphasizing the importance of of community building and of bringing together everyone affected by wrongdoing.
Among the other topics scrutinized by the attendees were: anti-immigrant violence; indigenous peoples; violence based on gender and disability; and cultural genocide, as well as atrocity crimes of terrorism, asymmetric warfare and institutionalized discrimination. Non-state, civil-society alternatives that could secure and/or transform future societies were also examined.
“Stakeholders gathered to explore the historical injustices of the past as well as injustices that occur and are taking place in our own time, and to interrogate how the U.S. and other countries deal with large-scale wrongdoing,” said Dennis Klein, Ph.D., director of Kean's M.A. in Holocaust and Genocide Studies program. “Part of what we set out to accomplish is to examine how the conceptions, behaviors, ideas and ideologies that have established traditions of injustices might well be changed as we move forward with intelligence, compassion, and national and international purpose.”
Co-organizers included Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation and Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights, with support from co-conveners Columbia University Institute for the Study of Human Rights Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability; American Ethical Union; Rutgers University Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights; International Center for Transitional Justice; Clark University Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies; and the Human Rights Institute at Kean University.
For additional information about the conference or Kean's Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies program, visit grad.kean.edu/mahgs-conference or contact Dr. Klein at firstname.lastname@example.org.