YOUTH REONCILIATION AMBASSADORS
Reconciliation in Macedonia: Challenges and Difficulties from my perspective
The process of reconciliation is long and difficult. It can not be accomplished during one night. Neither can it be done by simply fallowing a guideline. The process is specific for each case. It is very important for one country that has suffered in war or a conflict to dedicate it self to the process of reconciliation in order to function normally, no matter how painful that process is. Ignoring it, is not an option that can be sustainable. The political leaders often tend to sweep this kind of problems under the rug. However that is not solving the problem, it is only freezing it. Stalling the settlement. The process of reconciliation is not about forgetting that the enmities occurred or about forgetting that the conflict ever happened. On the contrary it is about facing the past, understanding why it was wrong to get in to the conflict and understanding why it was not inevitable. In this manner the multi perspective approach should be obligatory so that the mono-ethnic myths can be uncovered.
Namely when conflicts and wars occur, the sides that were involved in the enmities do not just jump back in normal relations. The long and difficult process of restoring the friendly relations is essential. In Macedonia the process of reconciliation is currently in a deadlock. It is not moving forward. This topic is not even present in the public, whereas the process is not over. On the contrary. There still are two truths about the conflict. Two truths exist about the causes for the conflict, and two truths exist about what happened during the conflict. And I would go that far and add that today we even live in two worlds. The Macedonians in their own, the Albanians as well. We do not have an official version of what happened. Not even an official documentation of all the victims in the conflict exists. Most of the people are deeply in to their mono-ethnic myths. Believing in half truths that are mostly present in the public. These mono-ethnic myths tend to portray their own ethnic group as a victim in the conflict and later on in in the post conflict transition. All most all ways leading to antagonization with the other ethnic group. We can not hope to reconcile in these circumstances.
In these past couple of years, the reconciliation process in Macedonia has also received severe damage. The two parties that share the coalition government, the Macedonian and the Albanian alike, are focused mainly on the needs of their ethnic group. That is an indication that the relations between the two ethnic groups is not normalized. We are divided like sheep, each in our own herd. Listening to the narratives in both “herds” one would get the impression that we live in a different country, or even world as I mentioned before.
In my opinion particularly the next three events that I will emphasize had made serious damage to the reconciliation process in Macedonia. In 2011 an amnesty was voted in the parliament on four cases of war crimes that happened during the conflict in 2001. That can’t help in restoring the friendly relationship. It is like pouring salt on a wound. I perceive it like an atrocity on the families of the victims in those cases. The only example in history where a parliament for political reasons is actually making an amnesty to war crimes. He was ceremoniously welcomed in Macedonia, and not only by citizens, he was welcomed by the highest state leadership, the president and the prime minister in person. Of course that only happened because they are all from the same ethnic group. Obviously this event has sent the wrong message to the other ethnic group and especially to the families of the victims.
Another example for a retrograde incident happened when the minister of defense, an Albanian, payed his respect to a monument of the UCK as an official delegation from the ministry. Producing major controversies since the Macedonian part of the government dissociated from this happening. That is not reconciliation, but on the contrary it proves how far we are from reconciliation. We can not hope to reach better understanding between us if our leaders are encouraging this actions. Actions like this performed by our leaders are only contributing to the strengthening of the myths and prejudices we have about the “others”. If our leaders are enhancing this picture, we can not expect the citizens on their own to manage and defeat the myths. It is not enough to only the civil society organizations and different foreign initiatives to drive this battle. Our political leaders are essential in the process. But obviously their lack of political will for conducting this process is making it more difficult.
The difficulty here is that our politicians are still partially drawing power from nationalism. And nationalism is still a powerful mobilization force. Our leaders are still too concentrated on their ratings, failing to look beyond. That is why the reconciliation process can not be done by this generation of politicians. We can’t expect that from the people that did the aforementioned. I don’t think that the reconciliation process can be accomplished by the generation of our fathers and mothers, the change must come from us. The younger generation. We the youth must show that we are beyond the ethnic dividing. We must show that we are prepared to move our differences aside and reveal the truth as it is. We do not have the baggage of direct involvement in the conflict, therefor we are free to act. Our generation can make the change.
That is why programs like the Youth Reconciliation Ambassadors are important. On the YRA program young people from region got the chance to know each other. Demolish the myths about the “other”. See the events from a different perspective. During this program I as a person from a multi-ethnic neighborhood felt that we have a chance for making a difference. Meeting young people from the region and discussing this topics without restrain was refreshing. It was possible to discuss and exchange views and perspectives with young people from different ethnic and religious background. Truly encouraging for me.
During our activities from this program, especially during the fallow-up activities I noticed that the people are still perceiving these topics as taboo. A group usually has its truth and it is comfortable with it. The readiness for moving away from this comfort and accepting that there may be facts that are proving us wrong is hard to absorb. I think that this is where our role as Youth Reconciliation Ambassadors comes up. We must open and discuss these topics. Topics that the people are feeling uneasy to talk about. Critical thinking towards our mono-ethnic myths is missing. We must fill in the gap. That kind of thinking is what we the Youth Reconciliation Ambassadors from Macedonia tried to inspire when we organized the panel discussion on the process of reconciliation in our country. That is what we must continue to do, because it is an obligation to the Youth Reconciliation Ambassadors to discuss tough topics and openly confront the mono-ethnic myths that is plaguing our people.