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.


Born in Adelaide, South Australia Grew up in Java, Indonesia Educated high school and agriculture in Adelaide Theological education in Brisbane Overseas experience in Asia and Africa, North America and Europe

One thought to “Recovery after conflict”

  1. Thank you for this excellent piece. I’ve never understood the process and actions required to work through an estrangement or conflict between individuals and peoples. It’s laid out so clearly here. Thanks again for the overview.

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