In 2015 when I returned to Cambodia to speak during Holocaust Remembrance Day, it was a gift to cross paths with Ali Al-Nasani, the Country Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Our fateful meeting led to a friendship inspired by common interests of me- mory, healing, and trauma. Hours, then weeks, then a year of ongoing discussion ulti- mately took form as a weeklong conference in 2016 titled Dealing With the Past: Engaging in the Present. This publication is the tangible product of that event.
The conference brought together a diverse group of professionals working in the fields of healing, conflict and post-conflict, trauma, memorialization, and human rights from around the world. The concept hinged on broadening the scope of national narratives by focusing on common themes that unite us in the human experience. Despite our obvi- ous focus on Cambodia’s history and contemporary healing, the conference achieved its goal by universalizing themes with a focus on healing and engagement. With most events open to the public, it was an occasion – and a successful one at that – to provide a space for reflection and exchange.
Each day’s theme – Space, Justice, Prevention, Healing, Memory – guided our site visits, panel discussions, and lectures. The final event took place on Holocaust Remembrance Day and we were honored to welcome German Ambassador Dr. Ingo Karsten as a spea- ker. Most events took place at Meta House, thanks to Nico Mesterharm, where a photo exhibition on former Khmer Rouge cadres by Daniel Welschenbach with text by Timothy Williams was displayed. This event would not have been possible without support from these individuals as well as Marcos Smith from GIZ, the Civil Peace Service, and the One Earth Future Foundation.
By the end of the week, it was clear that each of us was enriched and humbled by the engagement with the diverse group. The overall consensus seemed to be that delving into these broader themes contextualized the specific work each of us do. I am incredibly gra- teful to Ali, the Heinrich Böll Foundation staff, and each person who contributed to this event for a life-changing opportunity. We hope that this publication, with reflections from select participants, will illuminate how meaningful the experience was and will continue to be and the enduring impact it will have on our work.
With gratitude, Dara Bramson