Religion and the Social Construction of Memory amid Violence: The Case of the Massacre of Bojayá (Colombia)
Author: Rios Oyola, Sandra M, firstname.lastname@example.org
University: University of Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Supervisor: Prof John Brewer
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English
, Religious Peacebuild
, Transitional Justice
Areas of Research:
Human Rights and Global Justice
, Political Sociology
The role of religion in the construction of peace has often been associated with healing, forgiveness and reconciliation once violence has stopped. The burden of peacebuilding, however, often lies on the shoulders of religious actors while the conflict is still happening. This thesis studies how religious actors have used the construction of social memory as a tool for peacebuilding in a context of thin transition and on-going conflict. It contributes towards our understanding of the relationship between religion and social memory, in the construction of master narratives of suffering after the massacre of Bojayá. The research design followed the approach of the case study method and was conducted through the use of ethnography, interviews, archival research, and the use of secondary data.
The thesis explains how initiatives of religious peacebuilding have changed in response to different stages of conflict in Chocó. It argues that religious beliefs, such as social sin and accompaniment, influenced the creation of a wider narrative of social memory that includes not only crimes against human rights but abuses against economic and cultural rights. These beliefs contributed to strengthening a participatory bottom-up process of social memorialization and peacebuilding. Contrary to official and widely spread narratives of social memory, the local church has contributed to explain violence in Chocó as a crime against humanity. This narrative has served two purposes. First, it aims to instigate a sense of urgency about the conflict that affects Afro-Colombian communities, demanding the intervention of the national civil society to stop the violence in the region. Second, broad narratives of atrocities can prevent the personalization of violence and targeting individual perpetrators as the source of violence, averting the creation of new cycles of violence. In addition, the social construction of emotions in a religious context can shape the narratives of social memory that encourage the social construction of positive emotions in victims, such as dignity, optimism and happiness. Positive emotions are crucial in supporting a social peace process even before a political peace agreement has been signed. These initiatives of religious peacebuilding were analysed for their contribution to a model of emancipatory peacebuilding, which can expand our understanding of religious peacebuilding and the role of social memory in the construction of peace, by supporting the claims of transformative reparation and social justice from below.