75 years ago Nazi troops reached the Ukrainian capital Kiev, where they marched 34,000 Jews to a nearby ravine, stripped them and shot them.  And it is not the only tragic anniversary.  100 years ago the Battle of Verdun and the Battle of the Somme were raging, the Ottoman empire was in the middle of its campaign to exterminate around 1.5 million Armenians, and Sir Mark Sykes and François Picot were dividing up the Middle East into “spheres of influence”. 50 years ago Mao unveiled his cultural revolution, responsible for the deaths of 30 million people.  25 years ago, the Gulf War was reigniting the chaos in Iraq that continues today; almost a million people have now died in the violence since 2003 and in Syria since 2011. It is impossible to imagine the terror, or to underestimate the trauma.

People and their governments have varying approaches to understanding and addressing past trauma. Some seek revenge, some try to forget, some try to minimise its enormity to avoid confronting its reality, some distance themselves from collective or personal complicity or responsibility. Too often it is easier to stay silent, to internalise the problem, and to hope that if we ignore it it will go away. But the cycle of grotesque inhumanity shows us that it does not go away, and the problems simply fester.

We have to find the space between silence and violence, the space in which we can find our voice, our dignity, and respect – and be heard, before it’s too late.

Cord’s peacebuilding model addresses this in two main ways.

Firstly, we help communities and authorities to address the root causes of violence, helping to bring an end to poverty and injustice by helping people to go to school, earn a living, build their self-respect, dignity and hope, and learn to respect each other’s human rights. We call this creating the conditions for peace. And we help people to face up to the traumas of the past and present, to build relationships based on mutual respect, to find that space between silence and violence, and to speak up – collaboratively and non-violently. We call this creating the capacities for peace.

Little by little we are seeing the impact of this approach, the individual lives changed from despair to hope, from barely surviving to beginning to thrive, from injustice to equality, from silence to communication, from violence to collaboration.