By: Gabriela Yareliz
In my study of human rights, few things fascinated me as much as truth commissions, also known as reconciliation commissions. They are known as commissions (and essentially tribunals) that look at and investigate wrongdoing by governments and individual actors in situations like civil wars, genocide and mass atrocities.
To be honest, often times, there is no justice or compensation that can be given to people for what they have gone through, but the commissions have still proven to be important in the international justice system. People need to be heard. They don’t just want to be heard; they need to be heard. They want to make sure their story is not forgotten. They want to make sure no one invalidates or dismisses their experience or pain.
In these truth commissions, people tell their stories. Sometimes, in heart-wrenching detail. While the truth can’t rectify the past wrong(s), it has the power to heal. These commissions have been instrumental in a healing process for people.
Scripture itself says that the “truth will set you free,” John 8:32. The prophet Zechariah (8:16) said we should “speak the truth to one another.” Truth heals. Truth brings understanding. Truth brings reconciliation; that is why the commissions are alternatively called truth and reconciliation commissions.
Today, I had my own truth commission. It came from a place seeking hope, growth and more healing. I wasn’t looking for justice; I didn’t do it with malice– I simply wanted to be heard and understood. To be honest, I was heard, but I wasn’t understood. But if there is something I have learned from history and these commissions, it’s that it takes nations more than a day to heal and reconcile. And sometimes, at the end of the day, all that matters is that you respected yourself enough and were brave enough to confront and share a painful truth. Not everyone has the courage to face truth. Truth often holds hands with pain.
I spoke. And while I can’t control what effect my story has on another, I can control what effect it has on me. And like most who go to these truth commissions to tell their stories, I am ready to move on. I told my story. Don’t forget it. It happened, it’s true, and with the same strength, I am setting myself free.