Acknowledging the conflict of the past while also working for a future based on peace and justice is the theme of a week long visit to Northern Ireland by Professor Donald Shriver, President Emeritus of Union College, New York. Drawing on his practical experience of reconciliation in post-war Germany and Japan, in the USA after the civil rights campaign, and in Rwanda and South Africa, Professor Shriver has been an influential and critical thinker about issues of public acknowledgement, remembrance and commemoration in American society.
Professor Shriver will deliver a public lecture on ‘An Ethic for Enemies- acknowledgement, apology and remembrance after conflict’ on Tuesday 16 October (7.30 pm) at the Spires Conference Centre, Fisherwick Place, Belfast.
He argues that, in American society, modern civic identity is largely resting on denials, forgetfulness and inattention to the memories of neighbours whose ancestors suffered great injustices at the hands of some dominant majority in the past.
Looking at the treatment of the Native-American and the African-American communities especially, he argues that modern public culture will not be reformed “unless the past we ought to mourn is mourned in fact, in public and in a context of concrete gestures and measures that put the past behind us in our very act of confronting it.” He contends that repentance for those injustices must find a place in American political culture, carefully and deliberately cultivated through the accurate teaching of history, by means of public symbols that embody both positive and negative memory and through public leadership to this end.
Duncan Morrow, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Community Relations Council, which together with the UNESCO Centre and the Understanding Conflict Trust at the University of Ulster is sponsoring Professor Shriver’s visit, says,
“The most serious obstacle to planning a shared future remains our deep divisions about the past. Learning to face and acknowledge unpalatable truths will be very important for us here. For this reason, Don Shriver’s reflection on facing some of the hard truths of slavery and war and their importance for building a fair and just society in America are both timely and relevant for us.’
Donald W. Shriver Jr. is President Emeritus of Union College, New York. He is an influential and critical thinker about issues of public acknowledgement, remembrance and commemoration in American society.
An author of many articles and at least 13 books of which the most recent major texts are ‘An Ethic for Enemies’ (OUP, 1995) and ‘Honest Patriots’ (OUP, 2005), he is committed to the ‘civic duty’ of public and civic institutions, post conflict, to ensure that the past is acknowledged, mutual understanding developed and that a less conflictual and more just society and world is worked for.
During 15 - 19 October 2007 Professor Shriver is undertaking a number of meetings and seminars with diverse groups, North and South.
In addition to 2 public lectures in Belfast and numerous seminars with diverse community and public representatives. He is the Guest Speaker at the AGM of WAVE Trauma Centre and he is meeting the Consultative Group on the Past.
His visit is under the auspices of the UNESCO Centre, University of Ulster and their research and teaching programme strand on ‘Education, Conflict and Reconciliation’ and with the support from the NI Community Relations Council and the Understanding Conflict Trust.