Recovery after conflict



Many years ago the philosophers Gorovitz and MacIntyre wrote about human failings.[1] They suggested that in the realms where control is within our reach, we have two reasons why we might still fail. The first is ignorance due to a partial understanding of how something works. The second type of failure is ineptitude – failing to apply the knowledge correctly.


These factors are of key importance to the possibility of recovery after conflict, tension, loss or other form of grief – both for the persons involved and for the relationship that is often spoiled by the effects of conflict.


First, we realize that we have been impacted, but may not understand exactly how and why the conflict has affected us. We need time to gain perspective and look into our experience – and we usually need supportive persons to do that well.


Our need then is to find such supportive persons. This is what community makes possible, especially if the group is not focused on trying to convince us about what is ‘right’ and what I ‘should do’. Rather the focus must be on a space for conversation where I can share my thoughts without being corrected or shamed.


Second, we may not be aware of how much we are affecting others with whom we relate. We will only get to know that when they can safely tell us and explain how and why we are affecting them.


This requires that I understand myself before I give thought to how I behave out of who I am. Deep reflection and honesty give me a chance to achieve this.


Third, we may feel estranged but do not know what are the steps by which we can recover balance and renew our connections.


These were key issues in the broken social relations in Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. World Vision asked me to discover ways to create space for Rwandans to face these challenges and make responses that would bring change.


I mentored a few Rwandans and they saw many people change and restore relationships that were broken by the worst acts of violence. Some of these people asked me to write their stories. Their stories contain principles of behavior change that any human can apply.


From Genocide to Generosity was published in 2015 with some powerful narratives and hope-filled changes. The Rwandan best-practice we used offers an antidote to ignorance and ineptitude. To find out how visit the on-line Study Guide at

John Steward, writer and speaker, Junction Village, Victoria

[1] Gorovitz and MacIntyre, Toward a theory of medical fallability, Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 1 (1976): pp51-71.

A Song for Nagasaki

A Song for Nagasaki by Paul Glynn, Marist Fathers Books, Hunters Hill, NSW, 1988, 168pp.

I will forever be grateful for the friend who sent me this book. It is one of the most influential books in my life, and I made more marks and underlining in it than in any other book I have ever read. Here I met one of the world’s great Peacemakers: Doctor Takashi Nagai (“The well that lasts”).

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White ribbon day Nov 25th

White ribbon day, Nov 25th, 2016

By John Steward.


This is such an important day on the world calendar: the international day for elimination of the violence against women. This day commences the UNs 16 days of activism against Gender-based violence and the action to “Orange the world”.


I am ‘all for’ this focus.


And yet I don’t feel satisfied. It is not enough, not even close. It’s the same feeling I have when I see the signs that read: SAY NO TO VIOLENCE.

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The story continues: part 3

After 18 months work drawing together the stories from the past 15 years, by April 2014 I had a manuscript of 90,000 words. Friends read it and said it was powerful material but heavy going. In the next six months a skilful editor cut almost 30,000 words and created a wonderful flow of one story to the next.

As the book took shape I contacted an agent in the UK who had been recommended to me. His response to my introductory letter was stark: ”Rwanda, another book on Rwanda…? Why do we need another book on Rwanda?” Read More

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Frida: chosen to die, destined to live. By Frida Gashumba, with Sandy Waldron. Sovereign World, 2007, 169pp.

After years of fearful living and daily discrimination, because they are Tutsi, Frida, at age 14, is thrown unconscious with all other members of her family into a shallow grave near their home in rural Rwanda. But Frida, and only Frida, survives.

The graphic story, which comes from the writer’s clear and vivid memories, makes up the first half of the book; I felt I was right there with her through those frightening and challenging times. Read More

The story continues: part 2

In 2012 I visited some of the Rwandans Dave had filmed. They gathered close as I opened my laptop and played some of the stories he had created from the footage and I explained how we were using it. I showed them parts of Vanishing Point, the secondary school curriculum. Their response was gasps of amazement, smiling faces and then tears of joy. One group said “We have had 100 people come and take our story, but you are the first to return to say ‘thank you’ and to tell us how you are using the information.” Read More

The story begins: part 1

In 2007 David Fullerton accompanied me on a visit to Rwanda to film the stories of people in recovery. Over two weeks, with support from donors and some logistics from World Vision, and the guidance of three young interpreters, we filmed 28 amazing hours of story, culture and background material.

When Dave shared the footage with his partner Sally Morgan, she fell in love with Rwanda and the people we’d filmed. Using funds we raised from donors and philanthropists, Dave proceeded to create 21 short video stories introducing aspects of what Rwandan women and men had experienced. Read More

New beginnings

A new website is conceived.  A country is re-born.  A book comes to birth.

New beginnings almost always require forgiveness – to forgive means letting go of something that has inhibited or hindered me. So forgiveness gives us the chance of living in a new way or adding new dimensions to life. Read More