On 30 January 2017, the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) hosted an expert-meeting on the Cycle of Violence in Post-Conflict Settings - Theory, Facts and Policy Responses. The meeting was organized as one of the final steps of the research project ‘Breaking the Cycle of Violence: The potential of Community Based Sociotherapy (CBSP) in Rwanda” (funded by the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) under its WOTRO funding scheme). This project was executed by NSCR in cooperation with the Community Based Sociotherapy Program (CBSP) in Rwanda.
The cycle of violence is a framework that enables us to examine the impact of mass violence and its aftermath on family functioning, parenting and child development. Through this framework, one may identify how violence is transferred from one generation to the next. This may sound straightforward, but many questions regarding this subject remain. For example, what are the mechanisms through which new generations learn pro-violent attitudes? Or what mechanisms lead to resilience instead? These were some of the topics discussed during the expert-meeting that took place last Monday in Amsterdam.
The meeting was opened by Catrien Bijleveld (director NSCR) and chaired by Barbora Hola (Assistant Professor at the Free University, Amsterdam). Veroni Eichelsheim (researcher at NSCR) first explained various criminological theories and research findings related to the cycle of violence, in order to lay a foundation for the presentations with empirical findings that were to follow. Second, Lidewyde Berckmoes (postdoc researcher at NSCR) presented research findings conducted on intergenerational transmission of violence and resilience in Burundi. At a later stage these findings lend themselves to be compared with the findings of the WOTRO research project in Rwanda, which had a similar set up as the one Lidewyde presented. Third, Carola Tize (PhD student at the University of Amsterdam) shared her research findings on the intergenerational effects of long-term refugee status amongst Palestinians in Berlin, Germany. It takes those refugees a lot of time and effort to receive refugee status. This may discourage them to study, while it encourages them to engage in criminal behavior instead. After receiving refugee status though, Tize’s participants indicated they regretted having made such choices. Lastly, Theoneste Rutayisire (PhD student at University of Amsterdam and senior researcher at CBSP) presented the WOTRO research on the potential of community-based sociotherapy in breaking the cycle of violence in Rwanda.
The session after the lunch break started with a documentary on community based sociotherapy in Rwanda, focusing in particular on various post-gacaca and intergenerational issues as they feature in sociotherapy groups. Emmanuel Sarabwe (MA student at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague and engaged in sociotherapy programs in Rwanda since 2005) gave an in-depth explanation on the philosophy, practice and effectiveness of CBSP in Rwanda. He focused particularly on genocide-related family conflict in Rwanda, which he had studied over the past few years in the context of community based sociotherapy. Annemiek Richters (University of Amsterdam) followed with presenting CBSP’s research on parent-child communication and self-representations among the second generation in post-genocide Rwanda.
Joop de Jong (University of Amsterdam) and Marianne Vysma (Jungian psychoanalyst and medical anthropologist) concluded the afternoon session with reflections on what had been presented in the afternoon, engaging in particular with the method and effectiveness of community based sociotherapy. After a short break, the agenda for future research and interventions was set by the different presenters and the symposium participants.
The meeting was attended by a small group of people. They actively participated in the sessions, and had animated informal exchanges during the breaks. For the ones somehow engaged in the sociotherapy program in Rwanda (at least one third of the participants) the day also formed a fun and inspiring reunion.