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Inside the Programme

Mid-year Workshop Reflection: My unreconciled ideas on reconciliation

For many scholars, the mid-year workshop is a deeply introspective experience that brings with it uncomfortable revelations. Kennedy Mulwa gives insight into how he was emotionally challenged in this process.

Published 1 October 2020

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The midyear MRF workshop on Reconciliation left me brutalized, as it opened a previously unopened portal to my inner being. I am still smarting from all the unreconciled issues emanating from the experience, which I ironically hoped to bring me prompt reconciliation.

Confronted with stories about historical injustices, and making a direct connection of these stories with my own friends and colleagues, I wished there was a safety switch in this journey that I could press and thrust everything into utopia. I encountered stories of erased family histories and was awakened to my own similar situation. My biggest challenge was facing my shadow and noticing the less-than-ideal relationship I have with it. I learned that I am privileged in more ways than I would like to think or admit. I need to situate myself in the society, in the system, and in groups with which I am identified, and to recognize what privileges this bestows on me. How can I, from my unique positionality, take positions that promote equal treatment of human beings for the simple fact of their being human? Am I even enough?

My clearest resolution was that some things will perhaps remain unreconciled. There is no safety switch and I must live with the incomplete stories, unfinished business, less-than-ideal relationships, untraceable lineage and all the fruits and children of oppression. Sometimes the ship has set sail and the harbor has sunk, and the ship can never go back to that port, only sail in pursuit of another harbor. But this is a question that will probably sit with me for a long time: is reconciliation a journey to the past or to the future?

I want to be patient with myself on my reconciliation journey. The fact that it happens in tiny steps has on several occasions led me to think that nothing is happening at all. I now intentionally notice and acknowledge the small victories in my journey. Systems of oppression were built over centuries and across generations; likewise, systems of liberation and equalization may take long to realize their full objectives. Even then, the process offers worthwhile lessons for both the oppressor and the oppressed.

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