Genocide Prevention

The Importance of Teaching about the Holocaust in India in Light of Anti-Muslim Pogroms
Image of a building across a body of waterPhoto by Rahul Pandit from Pexels
The Importance of Teaching about the Holocaust in India in Light of Anti-Muslim Pogroms
By: Soila Kenya 

Salzburg Global Fellow Navras Aafreedi highlights the significance of teaching about the Holocaust as India grapples with a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment

From February 23 to March 1, 53 people, most of whom were Muslims, were shot, beaten and burned to death by Hindu mobs in what is now being referred to as the 2020 Delhi riots.

It is now being classified as a pogrom, a violent riot aimed at the massacre or persecution of a particular ethnic or religious group.

When you hear the word Holocaust or genocide or pogrom, your mind instantly takes you to certain events in history. For most people, that event would be the systematic murder of European Jews during World War II by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.

However, for Navras Aafreedi, Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Presidency University in Kolkata, India and Salzburg Fellow, learning about the Holocaust should not be a region- or country-specific requirement.

“I think it is really important to draw lessons from the Holocaust. And it is easier to draw lessons from the Holocaust for Indians than to draw lessons from any episode of mass violence that occurred in India. Because when we talk of the Holocaust, it is a genocide that did not involve any section of India’s own society,” he explains.

Aafreedi is a multi-time Fellow of Salzburg Global’s Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention program, which has been run in partnership with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and supported by the Austrian government since its launch in 2010 and most recently by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The program promotes peace, reconciliation, and pluralist societies by advancing structured dialogue, research, knowledge-sharing and cross-border projects, and engaging educators, practitioners and museum curators from over 50 countries, many with recent experience of mass violence or rising extremism.

When Aafreedi joined Presidency University in 2016, he designed the M.A. course titled “The History of Mass Violence: 20th Century to the Present.” The Master’s degree program – the first of its kind in the region – was developed in part thanks to Aafreedi’s 2014 participation in Salzburg. (Fellows are now creating a similar program in Morocco.)

He structured the course by choosing particular themes and in the course of studying those themes, select one or two events of mass violence and genocides as case studies. The Holocaust stands out in his teachings because of its scale and how well documented it was. Academically speaking, there is a lot to learn from an event that had such an immense impact on humanity.

“When the Holocaust ended, we used the slogan ‘Never Again’. But that slogan proved to be a hollow one. We have miserably failed in preventing mass violence. And there is no point in shying away from facts,” he explains.

With this course, Aafreedi aims to make his students conscious of what they can, must and should do to prevent mass violence and how to recognize and understand the warning signs that they see both in historic accounts – and in modern-day India.

First is tension and polarization. The gulf between Hindus and Muslims has greatly increased since the present National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition government came into power. There is also a proliferation of hate on social media.

Second is the apocalyptic public rhetoric. Hindu nationalists have repeatedly accused the Muslims of indulging in “love jihad” – the alleged trapping and luring of Hindu girls by Muslims for matrimony leading to their religious conversion – and “land jihad” – land grabbing – and of Hindus being in danger because of the rapidly rising numbers of Muslims in the country. Some have even suggested forced sterilization of Muslims.

Labelling civilian groups as the “enemy” is a third warning sign that has permeated Indian society today. Those critical of Hindu nationalists are denounced as “pseudo-liberals” or “pseudo-secularists”. Muslims protesting against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposed implementation of the exercise for the production of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) at the pan-India level are equated by Hindu nationalists with anti-nationals. In their discourse Hindu nationalism is equated with nationalism. Rationalists who have been speaking against superstitions have even been killed in a spate of attacks.

A fourth sign is the deployment of irregular armed forces within the country. Aafreedi quotes Christopher Jaffrelot, a French political scientist specializing in South Asia – “Never has the lack of distinction between non-state actors and government authorities been so great,” he says. There are vigilante groups, Gau Rakshaks (Cow Protectors), Police Mitra (volunteers assisting police in its operations during riots) that have been let loose on the public.

A fifth sign is the stockpiling of weapons. There are organizations in the country that are almost always well-equipped with weapons, which may not necessarily be conventional, to perpetrate violence of varying degrees.

When commenting on the waves of nationalism sweeping not only India, but other parts of the world, he identifies the great desire in citizens for strong leadership. “People just seem to be disappointed with how democracies have been functioning and they are craving for something that is stronger in nature; more authoritarian in nature,” he said.

Above all, Aafreedi, who is has both Hindu and Islamic roots in his family, hopes his teachings will ensure humanity shall not repeat its mistakes.

“I would only like my students to be more conscious of how the society can change for us if they turn a blind eye to increasing intolerance and discrimination towards minorities. Any society that is intolerant to certain sections of its population is as bad for the majority as it is for the minority groups. Nobody can be happy in such a society,” he concludes.

Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret: Lahore Museum 
Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret: Lahore Museum 
By: Anwar Akhtar – Samosa Media Director 

Multi-time Salzburg Global Fellow, Anwar Akhtar on why his film – made with Ajoka Theatre – “Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret: Lahore Museum”, has much to say about peace, for both South Asia and the UK

You can watch the film “Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret: Lahore Museum” on YouTube

The first half of 2020 has been lively, turbulent and difficult. The Coronavirus has changed our world, no matter whether you’re in India, Pakistan or the UK.

In the UK, the virus has disproportionally affected those from South Asian and Afro-Caribbean backgrounds, with arguments and theories flying in all directions about what social, economic and biological factors are in play. It will take some time to determine fully, but initial analysis points more to nurture, though nature is there as well.

On May 25, we witnessed the horror of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, being killed by police in Minnesota, USA, suffocated with a policeman’s knee on his throat. That one brutal act has led to global support for the Black Lives Matter movement. 

This in turn has led to debates and protests around many deep seated issues that have risen to the surface – or in the case of Bristol slave trader Edward Colston’s statue, sunk to the bottom of the harbor. The UK must fully address – in our schools, colleges, universities, galleries and museums – what the British Empire was and why so much of that story has been airbrushed out of British history, from the scale of slavery to the savagery and theft of the East India Company that laid the foundations for so much of Britain’s wealth and power today. 

Like all countries, the UK was built by heroes and villains. For every Emmeline Pankhurst, Michael Faraday and Alan Turing, we also have our Robert Clives and Edward Colstons.

Debates about racism, class, religion and empire are not going away any time soon. What is in our museums matters. What is and is not taught in our schools and universities matters. These issues have attained a new prominence in 2020. 

Salzburg Global Seminar has always made the case for how arts can act as a social transformer and bring communities together. 

I have gained hugely from my time at Salzburg Global programs. At 2014’s Conflict Transformation through Culture: Peace-Building and the Arts, writers, journalists, academics, film and theatre directors, came together, to share stories, culture and heritage from the Balkans, Turkey, South Africa, Uganda, Cambodia, Korea and Ireland. This program helped me develop my thinking, the themes we explore in the Lahore Museum film. Looking at the colleagues present then, brought to life for me, Margaret Mead’s famous words that are part of Salzburg Global Seminar’s story: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

For someone involved in British arts production work and anti-racist activism for 25 years, the scale of change in the last few weeks has at times been breathtaking: statues falling, universities and business schools changing their names. Lloyd’s of London, like many institutions, at the heart of British power today, issuing apologies for their involvement in slavery and pledging to invest in social justice and equality schemes for Black British people. We’ll see if their actions live up to their words. 

But change has arrived and it is happening. Lenin’s famous words about revolutions not working to fixed timetables, describe events today: “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.”

Many young British people of all backgrounds are questioning the nature of the British Empire and notions of “belonging” in a society where issues of race, culture, language and heritage all dominate.

Surely that is to be welcomed. Great Britain is an island with a global story, a global past, a global heritage, and a former global empire. We should, if I may adapt slightly Oliver Cromwell’s words, view it warts and all.

For many young people – and not just those with South Asian or Afro-Caribbean heritage – part of understanding who they are is to uncover their own history as offspring and descendents of Empire.

But other challenges arise. Competing narratives shroud our views. There is an antagonistic, confrontational nature to some contemporary nations trying to have only one story, one culture, one history, when in reality it is always plural. I think this is especially so, in South Asia today.

The internal turmoil within states, coupled with economic, ethnic and religious tensions, add layers of complexity. Many people are often simply bewildered or angered by or choose to ignore the past. They see it as a different country.

We can learn from history and avoid the mistakes of history by studying our histories. So we need books, films and documentaries to keep informing us. We need to study the archives, the literature, the paintings – and yes, to look at the statues. 

This is why the documentary I made with playwright Shahid Nadeem from Ajoka Theatre, “Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret: Lahore Museum”, is so important. It starts us on this journey, informing us that everyone in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the UK has a shared history, a shared story.

Lahore Museum has a rich, ancient and varied collection, which demonstrates the historical wealth and religious and cultural plurality of Pakistan – one of the largest Muslim-majority countries in the world, but also of course with large indigenous, mistreated and marginalised Hindu, Sikh and Christian communities. 

Our film explores the significance of the Lahore Museum – not just in Asia, but also in the UK. Through its magnificent collection we explore stories of ancient cultures: Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim, and those of empire, trade, the East India Company, the contribution of British Indian soldiers in two World Wars, Partition and the creation of Pakistan. 

What Sumaria Samad, who was Director of Lahore Museum, and Nadeem have to say about the museum’s extraordinary collection and the history of the region is both compulsive viewing and highly informative. They also give some insight into life in Pakistan today and the future role of the museum within Pakistan’s wider social, political, religious and cultural context, as well as Pakistan’s relationship with the UK.

So much can be gained by this approach of looking at our shared religious and cultural traditions, as well as historic tensions through the ages. Lahore Museum has many stories to tell and our film, can help educate a lot of people online, especially now that colleges and universities have been closed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Most important of all – and the sincere wish of all those involved in making this film – is that perhaps it can help bridge the gaps and divides, and heal some of the hurt, the animosity and the trust deficits that exist between India and Pakistan, so we do not curse another generation in both countries and in their huge diasporas to grow up with sectarian tensions, wondering when, if ever, there can be good relations and peace between us.

Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret: Lahore Museum

Reviews of Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret, Lahore Museum    

“It struck me, watching this revealing film, that this Museum throws light not only onto thousands of beautiful and fascinating works of art, but also onto a body of thought, a concept of society, an ecumenical vision and a long view that risks being erased by many forces in the contemporary world.”  – Dame Marina Warner, DBE, CBE, Professor of English and Creative Writing, Birkbeck

“The real star of the film is the museum itself, founded at the height of the British Raj, with John Lockwood Kipling (father of Rudyard) as its first curator. As the film’s title implies, it’s a museum which, if it were in almost any other country, would enjoy worldwide fame.”  – Edward Mortimer, author of Faith & Power: The Politics of Islam, former adviser to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and long-serving program advisor to Salzburg Global Seminar

“The, first and foremost, a pleasure to eavesdrop on.  All three protagonists seem to be having fun, to be enjoying the pursuit of serious questions in an extraordinary context. At the Lahore Museum, showing a collection that reflects the serial transformations of this complex country poses thorny problems of identity and ownership.  Pakistan’s relatively recent acquisition, in contrast to its long and fluid history, of an apparently monolithic religious identity, makes the museum’s address to a richly diverse past more difficult and more essential.”– Dr Jim Harris, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Teaching Curator, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Anwar Akhtarwas born and grew up in Manchester, UK. He is Founder and Director of The Samosa, a UK arts and journalism charity that works to embed diversity in the arts and humanities curriculum in schools, colleges and universities, and produces media that explores cultural and social issues. His latest film is “Pakistan’s Best Kept Secret – Lahore Museum” and his Manchester 4/4 talk, “Cities, Tolerance, Multi Culturalism” is available online. Anwar was the production consultant on the play “Dara,” working with Ajoka Theatre Pakistan and National Theatre UK.  The first South Asian history play at the UK’s National Theatre, “Dara” was seen by more than 30,000 people in 2015. “Dara” tells the story of Mughal India, raising questions about religious freedom, tolerance and clerical power that still resonate today. Anwar also led the Royal Society of Arts’ Pakistan Calling project, which produced more than 60 films looking at identity, education, equality, culture, religion, women’s and minority rights in Britain and Pakistan. Anwar was previously project director of the Rich Mix Cultural Foundation, where he led the capital and business development of a new £26 million arts centre in East London. He is a mult-time Fellow of Salzburg Global Seminar, having attended programs in the series Culture, the Arts and Society, Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention, and the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change.

This Is How One Man Has Spent His Life Studying the Roots of Good and Evil
Ervin Staub, professor emeritus of psychology and founding director of the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program at the University of Massachusetts AmherstErvin Staub, professor emeritus of psychology and founding director of the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
This Is How One Man Has Spent His Life Studying the Roots of Good and Evil
By: Oscar Tollast 

Salzburg Global Fellow and award-winning professor Ervin Staub discusses his research, positive bystandership, working at 81, and what he still hopes to learn

For a long-form Q&A, we spoke with Ervin Staub, professor emeritus of psychology and founding director of the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is former president of the International Society for Political Psychology and of the Peace Psychology Division of APA. Staub attended the Salzburg Global Seminar program, The Global Prevention of Genocide: Learning from the Holocaust, which took place in June/July 2010.

Salzburg Global: You've spent the majority of your professional life studying the roots of goodness and the roots of evil and applying the knowledge you gained to real-world situations. If you had to distill this research, which I recognize isn't easy, what are some of your main takeaways you want to impart to others?

Ervin Staub: With regard to the roots of evil, my first main takeaway is that seeing members of another group (or a single person) as separate and different from us, as “them” rather than “us,” and seeing them in a negative light, or using my term, devaluing them, opens the door to harming them. There are varied forms of devaluation, and some are more dangerous than others. Seeing the other as immoral, or as less than human (in Rwanda, Tutsi were called cockroaches by Hutus), and as intent on harming oneself or one’s group, are especially dangerous. Also, devaluing a group that does relatively well in the society—the Jews in Germany, the Tutsis in Rwanda, the Armenians in Turkey—is especially dangerous for that group.

A second crucial takeaway is that hostility and violence evolve progressively. Individuals and whole groups change when they harm others. If there are no restraining forces to stop them, they justify the harm they have done. They devalue their victims more, and usually also create a vision of a better life for themselves, which is destructive as they claim that the targeted group stands in the way of fulfilling the vision. The vision can be seemingly positive, like the Khmer Rouge ideology in Cambodia of social equality. But the Khmer Rouge believed that some groups would resist a society of social equality and had to be eliminated.

A third takeaway is that the passivity of witnesses or bystanders, people who are neither victims nor perpetrators, allows this evolution to progress. These can be internal bystanders, within a country, or external bystanders, individuals, groups, nations outside the country. Their passivity says to harm doers that others see what they are doing as acceptable, or even support it. Complicity by bystanders is even worse. There are many forms of this; one was U.S. corporations doing business in Germany after the Nazis killed communists, socialists, leaders of trade unions, and were increasingly persecuting Jews. In the course of the evolution of harm doing, to avoid empathic suffering, passive bystanders, especially internal bystanders, tend to distance themselves from victims, reducing the likelihood of action by them.

In addition to material needs, human beings have basic psychological needs—for security, for a positive identity, for positive connections to certain individuals and groups, for the ability to control important events in life, for understanding the world and our place in it. When conditions in the world frustrate these needs, we turn to ideals, visions, groups, that can help us satisfy them to some degree. These ideals and groups can be destructive—like the Nazis, and their ideals of racial purity, the leadership principles—that is, complete obedience to the leader, Hitler, and expanding German living space (by taking territory from others).

Finally, related to healing from either having experienced, or having perpetrated violence, and to moving after violence toward positive behavior, understanding the roots of violence has great value. Helping people with such understanding was one of our major tools in Rwanda, in Amsterdam, and elsewhere. Even with police, part of the training is discussion of why officers may engage in unnecessary harmful action toward citizens. With regard to genocide or other mass violence, the influences include difficult life conditions or a history of conflict between groups or both, their psychological impact—devaluation of the other, scapegoating, creating destructive ideologies—and limited harmful actions such as discrimination and some degree of violence which start an evolution.   

An important takeaway about the roots of goodness is that seeing human beings in general, and particular groups of people or individuals in a positive light, makes it more likely that we will act on their behalf. To see people that way is usually the result of having received love and affection and positive guidance with caring values early in life. But positive views of people, caring values, and helping can also develop later, in ways that I refer to in other responses.

Goodness can also develop as the result of a reasonably benevolent society that helps people satisfy their basic material needs, and also satisfy basic psychological needs constructively rather than destructively. For example, through connection and cooperation rather than power and dominance over others. Also, like hostility and violence, caring, helping, and active bystandership can progressively evolve. Small caring acts by individuals, groups, or a whole society can bring change in a positive direction and lead to greater acts. Both socialization, involving children in discussing rules and making decisions, and such an evolution can contribute to the development of moral courage, acting on moral and caring values in spite of potential or actual opposition or negative consequences.  

People (and whole groups) who have been significantly harmed can become hostile, aggressive, or withdrawn from others. But I have found that suffering in childhood or as adults can also be a source of caring and helping, or “altruism born of suffering.” There are many examples of this. Studying this phenomenon, people becoming altruists after suffering, we came to believe that corrective experiences, such as care and support by others and healing, make this likely to happen.  

SG: You have worked with teachers to create classrooms that promote caring and helping. You have trained police to prevent or stop unnecessary harmful actions by fellow officers. You have promoted reconciliation in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Congo. You have worked to improve Dutch-Muslim relations in Amsterdam after violence there. When considering all these interventions, where do you feel you made the most impact?

ES: I hope and believe that all had a positive impact. In Rwanda, after eight years of workshops with varied groups, including national leaders, in 2004, we began to broadcast educational radio programs that are still ongoing. The aim of both the workshops and radio programs was to promote healing and reconciliation after the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda and prevent future violence between Hutus and Tutsis. We also had such programs in the Eastern Congo, and in Burundi, where they also still continue. Evaluation studies showed a variety of positive effects, such as greater willingness to work with the other group for shared goals, greater empathy, people saying what they believed—in a country where they are very careful about what they publicly say— and others.

In Amsterdam, the city government invited me to develop proposals to improve ethnic Dutch-Muslim relations after substantial violence in this normally peaceful city and acted on a number of them. The head of staff of the city manager described in an article nine practices they created or developed. These included new institutions to bring people together and to inform the groups about each other; after Ramadan Muslim families inviting Dutch families for dinner; a way to enhance public-political participation by young Muslims, and more. Finally, I worked with teachers to create classrooms that promote caring and helping in children. To mention just one aspect of this, one goal was to provide all the children with significant roles in the classroom; another to guide them to learn by “doing.” The impact of such classrooms can be substantial, but I did not have the opportunity to observe or evaluate its impact.

But I think we are in the process of making the most impact with the training I have developed for police. I originally developed that training for police in California in 1992, after the Rodney King incident. In that incident, after a car chase the police pulled Rodney King out of his car, several officers beat him with their batons while he was lying on the ground, and a number of officers stood around watching this. Someone from a nearby balcony filmed this, sent it to a television station, and it went viral. The aim of the training was to get police officers to be active bystanders, who act to prevent or stop unnecessary harmful actions by fellow officers.

The training gained real traction in the last five years or so in New Orleans. Police officers in that city had frequently unnecessarily harmed and at times killed citizens. The Justice Department got involved and signed a consent decree with the city and the police department, which required reform. Under the influence of a civil rights attorney there, Mary Howell, who knew me and my work and who was passionate about reforming the police, the person who wrote the consent decree in the Department of Justice included this training in the decree.

Several consultants, the monitor of the consent decree Jonathan Aronie, and members of the police department under the leadership of a new police superintendent, Michael Harrison, participated in creating a version of the training for New Orleans. The name of the training is EPIC: Ethical Policing is Courageous. The original training aimed to protect citizens from unnecessary harm and improve police-community relations. A main difference in New Orleans is not in the training itself, but emphasizing the benefits to the police. Officers won’t be prosecuted for criminal conduct, or lose their jobs, and neither will be officers who are witnesses and do nothing. Ethical officers won’t be distressed having to witness the unethical behavior of others.

The training requires a culture change. The meaning of good teamwork has to be redefined, from its usual meaning among police officers that you support anything your fellow officer does, to protecting everyone by stopping a fellow officer from unnecessarily harming people. This requires the involvement and support of high-level officers. The training includes learning about what inhibits active bystandership, skills of non-aggressive interventions, how to get other bystanding officers to be allies in intervention, and other elements.

We have a lot of indicators of the effectiveness of the training. Complaints about the police have almost disappeared. There are a good number of anecdotal reports of active bystandership: an officer putting an arm around another officer who got activated and seemed about to attack a demonstrator. An officer standing in front of a woman officer whom a citizen verbally abuses and who is getting more and more angry, saying to her "EPIC, EPIC." The woman officer repeats it and moves back. In a community meeting, a man says that he has mental health issues and the police used to harass him, and now they come over, ask how he is doing. Their kindness even confuses him.
This training has received a lot of attention in the media (in the New York Times; in newspapers in New Orleans, in psychology, and in articles in police journals). Last year we had a conference in New Orleans, with close to 100 high ranking officers and police administrators from around the country, who are interested in introducing the training in their departments. This year we had another conference like that. I gave the keynote address at both, but many other people are involved. This year we also included a training of trainers, mostly but not all with New Orleans officers, so that there will be officers who can go to other cities to help with training. Baltimore, another very problematic police department, also under a consent decree, in the spring of 2019 appointed the Superintendent of New Orleans to be their police commissioner.

Just a fun little fact, all this might not have happened if I had not said to the reporter calling me from the LA Times after the Rodney King event, asking why police would do such a thing, that I won’t talk to her. She asked why, and I said because I talk to you for 45 minutes and then you write one sentence about it. She said no, I will write what you say. She did, in a front-page article in the LA Times. I was then invited to give a talk at a conference aimed to address such police behavior, and after that to develop a training.
SG: In your autobiographical paper, published last year, you said your work has shown knowledge gained in research can be used to make a difference in the world. But how do we make this knowledge more accessible to different audiences and inspire change?

ES: This is a real challenge. I have done a number of mini-workshops for an Africa group in the CIA about our work in Rwanda, the workshops also addressing ways to promote reconciliation between groups in general. Reconciliation improves lives but is also necessary to prevent renewed violence. I have talked at a number of daylong events organized by the State Department, with the CIA a silent but active partner—because there was a person at the CIA of sufficient influence, who had a strong interest in the prevention of genocide and other mass violence.

The participants at these events were analysts, who I assume conveyed information to decision-makers. However, having decision-makers there would have been different, anywhere along the chain of power, ideally even the Secretary of State. We could then have engaged in discussion about how to transform whatever knowledge exists into policies.
Former U.S. Secretary of State [Madeleine] Albright and former Defense Secretary [William] Cohen wrote a small book about the U.S. acting to prevent mass atrocities. Their central idea was to create an interagency group for atrocity prevention. Each member of the group would be part of another agency, as well as the Atrocity Prevention Board. I wrote at a number of places that part of this idea was great since the different agencies could coordinate and work together, but part of it was flawed. If there is not also a central group whose only task is atrocity prevention, that goal would be secondary for everyone, and possibly not much would happen. After President Obama created an Atrocity Prevention Board, it seemed to have accomplished little.

Members of the Wilson Center in Washington succeeded in bringing leading members of the opposing sides together in Burundi, Hutus, and Tutsis, many of them military, for a series of meetings/workshops. This was highly promising, and for a while, Burundi seemed to do well. But antagonism and violence have flared up again.

In Rwanda, we did workshops for varied groups: organizations that worked with groups in the community on healing and reconciliation, community leaders, as well as national leaders—government ministers, advisors for the President, members of the Supreme Court, journalists, and others. We did this, my partner Laurie Anne Pearlman, a clinical psychologist, and specialist in psychological trauma, and myself, in collaboration with a Rwandan organization, the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission. We offered my conceptions of the origins of genocide, based on an analysis of a number of genocides, and avenues to prevention and reconciliation. We also talked about healing, primarily the work of Laurie. Some of the leaders and others in our workshops asked us to expand this work, and we created educational radio programs that began to broadcast in 2004 and are still ongoing.
There were informational programs, and an extremely popular radio drama, that started with a conflict between two villages, with information embedded in it, over a long period of time moving on to reconciliation.

We conducted research to evaluate the effects, separately, of our first workshop, and the educational radio drama at the end its first year. Both had a meaningful impact. But the broad effects on the population are difficult to know. Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, who led the Tutsis to defeat the government and associated groups who were perpetrating the genocide of 1994, keeps a very firm hold on the country. On the one hand, this is an enlightened hold, that has led to substantial economic progress, and some measure of equality between Tutsis and Hutus. On the other hand, he does not tolerate political opposition and has maintained a firm control on power, jailing potential rival presidential candidates, or getting them to leave the country. There has been no organized hostility toward any group; in fact, the opposite, led by an ideology that there are no Hutus and Tutsis, just Rwandans.

But the government strongly discourages and even punishes people talking about Hutu and Tutsi, which makes discussing and addressing issues between the groups challenging. We would know the true impact of our work if hostility between groups began to emerge, and it would be resisted.

Working with leaders is important. So is working at the community level, both because the community can contribute to change, and because it has to accept change offered by leaders. But leaders ought to be involved. There have probably been more events bringing Israelis and Palestinians together than any other groups in conflict. But it has not resolved the antagonism between Israelis and Palestinians, perhaps because leaders have not been part of such events. Education, processes of healing, reconciliation, deep engagement with each other, creating joint projects that benefit all parties, involving both citizens and leaders, and creating structures that bring citizens together are all important. An essential question is how to activate those with political and financial resources to bring about such processes.

Engaging educational television dramas or radio dramas where television is still scarce can bring core principles that apply to every country to large audiences. In Rwanda, between 80 and 90% of the population has listened to the radio drama. Additional components can make such programs relevant to particular audiences at particular times. This, combined with creating workshops for leaders and finding ways to entice them to participate in them, may bring substantial change in the ways groups address conflict.    

SG: What do you wish people knew more about helping and positive bystandership?

ES: It is possible to raise children who will be caring, helping, active bystanders in important realms, who can also develop the moral courage to act in the face of opposition and potential negative consequences. Raising them these ways also makes violence by them less likely and resistance to evolution in their group toward violence more likely. Children requires love and affection to learn to care about and help other people. But they also require guidance, by values first of all, and by rules derived from positive values. However, harsh treatment, authoritarian rule setting, does not have positive effects. They also need positive helping models. Actually guiding them to engage in positive actions is essential. I have done a series of studies in my early work on “learning by doing.” Children made toys for poor hospitalized children, or older children taught younger children. Both contributed to later helping.

I have written a great deal about how to raise helpful children, and so have other people. However, it is parents, teachers, peers, and society—social media, movies, video games, the example of public figures—that raise children. Parents and teachers can do a lot to counteract negative outside influences to a reasonable degree. But for them to raise children these ways, many of them have to change, in values, skills, [and] personality. Some teachers easily interpret the behavior of a child as disrespectful and respond harshly. Some parents and teachers set rules in an authoritarian manner. They need to learn about themselves, learn where this comes from in their own life experience, and be guided and supported to change and become optimal socializers.

It is also possible to help people who have suffered abuse, violence, and neglect, to become caring and helpful. Some people who have suffered become withdrawn, hostile, or violent. But since many people suffer, for the world to be caring rather than hostile, the phenomenon I have named “altruism born of suffering” is of great importance. Some people we have studied said: I help others because I have suffered. Trauma psychologists say trauma is determined both by traumatizing experiences and what happens afterward. For many who have suffered to become altruists requires positive connections, support by other people, and opportunities for healing.

It is possible for governments—city, state, national—to draw on expertise around them, and create institutions in a society that help develop positive relations between subgroups, between majorities and minorities. What leaders say, what the media writes, what is in the literature about different groups in society all matter. Creating opportunities for members of different groups to have deep, significant—not superficial—contact, especially in projects with shared goals, is especially valuable for positive relations. The road to the European Union, for example, included large scale joint projects between countries.

SG: After 10 and a half years, you said you were emotionally ready to look at the dark side: the roots of violence between groups, especially genocide and mass killing. What helped you become emotionally ready?

ES: As I said earlier, both goodness and evil evolve. We also change progressively in our own lives, work, and personal. As a child, I was surrounded by the evil of Nazism and its tremendous threat to our lives, and then to the limitations of freedom and life under communism. But what impressed me especially was the goodness of the people who in the midst of evil were helping us at great potential risk to themselves. Two people of great importance were Raoul Wallenberg, and Maria Gogan, a Christian woman who worked for my family. She stayed with us throughout this horrible period. She took me and my very young sister into hiding with a Christian family for a while—I was 6, she not yet 1-1/2 years old. Later she helped us get food at great risk to herself. So it is not surprising that I started studying the influences leading to helping, the roots of goodness. But it was also probably the case that I was not ready to look eye to eye at the horrors of the Holocaust. So for over a decade, I did research on what leads people to help others, or not to help when there is need, and how helping may be increased, in children and adults.

At the end of this period, I published three books. I was exhausted, but fortunately, I had a sabbatical, and after some recovery, I started to read a book about Germany and the Holocaust. My work on helping also engaged with people not helping, which was a kind of stepping stone to people perpetrating harm.

I was easing myself gradually into the study of genocide. It was a progressive evolution. A serious source of my engagement became, as I was readying that first book, that on the basis of my research and study of goodness and its absence, I thought I had the beginning of an understanding how such terrible things might come about—for example, by people rather than feeling responsible for the welfare of members of another group, relinquishing responsibility. I became increasingly committed and studied first the Holocaust, and then other genocides and mass killings. Much later, I also studied terrorism.

Although I wrote articles about genocide along the way, and did a variety of other work, writing my first book on genocide, The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and Other Group Violence, took eight years. Part of the reason was that in addition to social science research and concepts, which I was familiar with, important data for me was history. For each case I wrote about, I studied the history of that society and its culture, including relations between the groups that became perpetrators and victims, current conditions in the society, and more. All along my purpose in understanding the roots of such great violence was to learn how it can be prevented; and how groups can reconcile after great violence, thereby to improve people’s lives and prevent new violence. Without, reconciliation, there is usually renewed violence.

So my shift from studying “goodness” to my commitment to study “evil” was a progressive evolution.
SG: If more policymakers and institutions took action on the research you've presented, and it was scaled up further, how do you think the world would look?

ES: A crucial realm of action is the way we raise children. Will they develop inclusive caring, see the humanity of everyone? Or will they draw lines between themselves and others? Does their experience lead them to see danger even when it is not there, ready to protect themselves with force even if this is not necessary? Parents/families, teachers/schools are essential in this. Children with positive experiences and guidance will be more difficult to incite against others, and more likely to become positive, active bystanders.

Adults can also have experiences that ameliorate painful life experiences and help them constructively fulfill basic material and psychological needs. They can become more inclusively caring. Groups can stop drawing sharp lines between themselves and other groups. For all this to happen requires not only opportunities for personal healing and growth, but also constructive engagement, policies, and institutions that bring members of different groups together. As in Amsterdam, guided by proposals based on research, cities [and] countries can initiate ways to positively engage ethnic, racial, religious groups with each other—to meet, learn about each other, develop significant connections.

In other words, it is possible to make a positive difference, if parents, teachers, policymakers, and institutions constructively engage. What might this better world look like? Individuals and groups would still have conflicts, but they would cooperate to resolve them peacefully. In really difficult times in a society, which people don’t know how to address constructively at least in the short run, they would not devalue other groups, scapegoat them and turn to destructive ideologies. The psychological needs and emotional processes, such actions aim to address can be even better served through connections to people/and between groups, and by creating inclusive visions that embrace every group.  Caring about others can lead to addressing people’s immediate needs—like Franklin D. Roosevelt’s work programs during the great depression in the U.S.—and constructive planning for long term actions.
SG: Why has the work you've been involved with and led been important for you?

ES: I think I cover this in a number of responses. I have survived a genocide, lived under the repressive system of communism, but also experienced the goodness of a few people who in the most dangerous times endangered their lives to save us/help us. I feel really moved when I see or hear about kind actions, especially if they help people in serious danger or need. And it is very upsetting to me when innocent people suffer cruelty at the hands of others. It is these experiences and feelings that have made my work important for me.

I used to get really upset, write letters to editors, try to do something when I read or saw on television innocent people greatly harmed. As just one example, I found the actions of the Contras in Nicaragua deeply upsetting. Funded by the U.S., they destroyed schools and killed children. I have lived in the United States since 1959, and consider myself an American. I get especially upset when it is my country that unnecessarily harms people, when it engages in unnecessary wars with many people killed, or does not attempt to stop, or even better prevent genocides. I cannot do anything significant about many of these things. But try to act within at least some of the realms in which I can do something.

SG: In your autobiographical paper, you said the work you have done was in part shaped by your life experiences. Early in your career, you said you tried avoiding these connections. Did you find that process easy or difficult?

ES: I tried to avoid connecting my personal experience and my work for two reasons. First, I received my Ph.D. at Stanford, in a department that was very focused on science and scientific research. This made me feel that the research questions I explored should be based on scientific hypotheses and deal with data, rather than personal feelings and experiences. Second, as I was giving talks about my work, I thought that if people thought my research was motivated by personal experiences, they would discount it, at least somewhat. Both of these are wrong. Many research questions are based on personal experience, certainly in the social sciences. That does not mean that the research is not rigorous, that the findings are not valid.

Was avoiding these connections difficult? Actually, no. I was immersed in my work. I just did not think much about its relationship to my early life. Occasionally, the connections became very present, however. As I was reading a novel about a Nazi doctor who did cruel experiments on children and adolescents at Auschwitz, I cried and thought I am doing this work (at the time studying what leads people to be caring and helpful) so that such things won’t happen.

At some point, I realized that many of the people who work on the topics I work on do so because of personal connections to events of goodness and evil. That my personal experience does not discount my work—perhaps strengthens it—especially because at Stanford, I was trained to be a careful research scientist. I started to talk, and at times, write about my personal experiences.

However, there was a fairly long road to this. After my book The Roots of Evil… was published, which received quite a bit of positive attention, someone who came to give a talk at UMass from Harvard said that the book was obviously a labor of love. I took this at first as diminishing it from the hopefully significant contribution to understanding the roots of genocide and mass killing, which can guide us toward prevention. I took it as just an expression of something personal. Well, how dumb can one be?
SG: You've just turned 81. You've just returned from a trip where you were training trainers for New Orleans police officers. This year, you received the Kurt Lewin Award "for outstanding contributions to the development and integration of psychological research and social action" from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. In 2018, the Society gave you the Otto Klineberg Intercultural and International Relations Award. What inspires you to keep on working?

ES: Most of my life, I have been asking the question, how to live life. At some point, I was thinking about writing a book with the title “On not knowing how to live life.” But all that time I was working extremely hard. I believe it was probably my early experiences which I mentioned before, and my various dislocations—escaping from Hungary with friends at age 18, still a communist country that did not allow people to leave the country, living in Vienna for two and a half years, then when I got a visa coming to the U.S. alone, that led me to frequently ask that question. But on the other hand, because of my experiences, I had a deep need to try to make the world a better place.

I often wondered why I work so hard (especially if I don’t know how to live life). Once in therapy, I came up with one answer—I want to prove to the Nazis that I am alive. Perhaps the guidance of my advisor in graduate school at Stanford, Walter Mischel, also contributed. He believed in and modeled and inspired me to work hard and be productive. But the fact is that every time I felt that some work I had the possibility of doing might make a positive, possibly significant difference, I was energized, and moved forward.

After my trip this year to New Orleans to work with police, and San Diego to give an award talk, I felt low on energy, and for a while did not feel like doing anything. But fairly soon, I recovered. However, I have been telling people—I am cutting this out, cutting that out. Then they say, I have heard that before. I just canceled a trip to Macedonia to give a couple of talks. But I will go to Maine to do three days of lectures/workshops. I just got another invitation, which seems worthwhile, to give talks over two days, and decided to do it. I am still a bit like a moth attracted to the flame. If some work seems to be of significant value, from the perspective I hold, it is difficult for me to resist. Obviously, I still don’t know how to live life. But I am only 81.

SG: What do you want to learn more about?

ES: I would like to learn more about how we could make everyone a morally courageous “active bystander.”  I do know a fair amount about it, and also about how to prevent mass violence. But knowing is a very long way from being able to make it happen. I believe one always has to answer three questions: what does one want to bring about—for example helping as many people as possible, leaders, people in the middle (the media, clergy, etc.) and the population, to become active bystanders who are concerned with and attempt to address the needs and suffering of people—group violence, poverty, individual suffering, and so on; how to do it, in this case how to generate active bystandership, in general and in specific realms; and who needs to do it, what individuals and institutions have the knowledge, skills, position, financial capacity and power to bring it about. To affect great social processes, whatever they are, you have to decide what needs to be done, how it can be done, and who can do it.

I have worked on generating active bystandership in a variety of realms. In addition to police, I and associates have developed and employed a program/curriculum to train students in schools to be active bystanders who attempt to prevent or stop harmful behavior by fellow students toward other students, with an evaluation study that showed positive effects. But I would like to learn how to get decision-makers to do what leaders in Rwanda did, and the mayor and other leaders of Amsterdam did, inform themselves and take relevant actions. In Rwanda, we initiated working with leaders, but they were ready, eager, mostly younger people, new leaders, who wanted to know how to move forward after the genocide in 1994. They asked us after a while to expand our work, and we moved then from workshops with various groups, to educational radio programs. In Amsterdam, the mayor and city officials initiated a process, organized a conference after violence in the city, asked me to make proposals to improve ethnic Dutch-Muslim relations, and followed up with actions. How can we get others with relevant values to move into leadership positions, or engage those who already are in such positions and hold such values, who are open to gaining relevant knowledge and skills, and have the determination and courage for action?  

SG: You've also been working on blind and constructive patriotism. Can you tell us more about that and its relevance today?

ES: On the basis of observing the world around us, not only in the U.S. but also in other countries, I developed a conception or hypothesis about people varying in the nature of their love of their country. I thought some people believe that whatever their country does is right, or ‘my country right or wrong.’ I called this blind patriotism. On the other end of this dimension or variation, I thought that some other people, when they see their country deviating from universal human values, for example, respect for the welfare of all human beings regardless of what race, ethnicity or nation they belong to or deviating from their country’s own central, core values, feel the need to speak out, to respond, to oppose.

We developed a measure to assess these two types of patriotism and gave participants in the study a number of other measures. We could differentiate and classify people on the basis of their responses as blind and constructive patriots. The former spent less time and made less effort to inform themselves about politics. They disliked other countries’ use of what they considered American, for example, playing baseball. They had lower scores on pro-social orientation than constructive patriots—that is, had a less positive view of human nature/human beings, were less empathic, and felt less responsibility for the welfare of other people.

Given Donald Trump’s behavior, it is hard to imagine that people with a strong prosocial orientation would be committed Trump followers. Some people follow him because of self-interest, like his tax cuts that so greatly benefited corporations and the very wealthy. Some may follow him because their life circumstances have been difficult, and other leaders were not creating policies to help them, so they took a risk on this risky man. But many followers seem likely to be blind patriots, who like his slogan “Make America Great Again,” who can feel pride in the U.S. standing up to China and Mexico on trade, showing power and determination even if it causes economic damage. They also may feel that when President Trump acts dismissively toward old allies, like members of the European Union and its leaders, he shows the power of the U.S. Perhaps they interpret such behavior as expressions of American superiority. For them, this presumed show of strength may override concerns about President Trump’s often dishonest and abusive behavior.

Once committed to a leader, to Donald Trump, they would be less likely to oppose him, and more likely to follow him in his hostile rhetoric and policies toward people trying to come into this country as refugees from Central America or Mexico, or already in this country from those places. In addition, of course, some of his followers may join him because they hold, or are open to, such hostile attitudes/ideologies.  
SG: Is there a piece of advice or words of wisdom that have stuck with you during your life? If yes, could you share?

ES: I don’t know whether this counts as words of wisdom. When I had setbacks over the years, especially in the realm of my work but also in other realms, I would be upset for a day and night, and next day I would start over again, driven by the spirit don’t give up. Or, you can overcome this.

Also, over the years, I have come to realize even more than before how much friendly attention, even in small ways, matters to people. I try to live by that.

In addition to my studying cultures in books, working in a number of countries, it was evident that there are significant cultural differences, and one has to work in every setting with awareness of this. Sometimes it involves simply respecting these differences. Sometimes one has to deal with the obstacles they create, both practical and emotional. For example, in a number of cultures where I worked, for a long time or briefly—Rwanda, Colombia—people’s sense of time, and their respect for agreements about meeting times, and even coming to meetings agreed upon, can be different from Western countries. This was initially upsetting to me. For effective collaboration, it has to be addressed, but thoughtfully, sensitively, and without an expectation that having discussed them, cultural differences will disappear. However, there were significant individual differences in this, and differences having to do with roles and circumstances. The problem was greater with early collaborators, much less with later ones—so we must have learned something.

There were no such problems with participants in our workshops, who were usually on time, although many came from long distances. This may have had to do in part with Rwanda being a country with strong respect for authority, and as outsiders and leaders of workshops, we were considered authorities. But it may also be that the workshops, addressing their past suffering and trying to help them create a better future, were very important to participants.

It is also important to work with people in other countries collaboratively. It is easy to believe that given our training, and coming from more “developed” countries, we are the experts. But the people who live with the issues we try to address have their own traditions, for example about reconciliation, and knowledge of history and circumstances. In our workshops in Rwanda, when we worked with people who worked with groups in the community, our goal was to integrate the approach we offered with what participants have done in their own workshops so that they can use this integrated approach in their future workshops.

Finally, what I consider another aspect of wisdom is to check with local people the extent that knowledge we offer is considered by them applicable to their situation. For example, we presented in Rwanda my conception of the origins of genocide, with examples from other countries, and then asked participants in our workshops to apply it to Rwanda. As they do so, drawing on their own experience, they gain I believe what I call experiential understanding of the principles we presented. This is likely to have greater influence than simply knowing them. I used this approach in other places as well, for example, in Belgrade during the violence in Bosnia. I use versions of this in work with the police, for example, in training trainers asking them why they think some police officers engage in unnecessary harmful actions, and what they think might inhibit interventions by fellow officers. It is after discussing what they have offered that I present my own views and relevant research findings on these issues, which often overlap with what they have said.

SG: What's one thing we can do on an individual level each day to promote caring, helping, and active bystandership?

ES: Take opportunities, or create opportunities for yourself, to help others, or promote the social good, to be active bystanders even if in small ways. Create opportunities for other people to help someone, or promote the social good, even if in small ways. Sometimes you can invite another person or persons to join you in doing this. At other times you can join individuals or organizations. Since caring, helping, active bystandership evolve progressively, this is likely to increase over time how much good we do. In addition, reciprocity is a universal social norm and a psychological force. There is also generalized reciprocity. People who are helped are likely to “pay forward” and help others.

This makes even small actions matter. Allowing a person coming from a side street to enter the line of cars in front of you may make it more likely that that person will do a kind act, probably small, perhaps not. So does smiling and being nice to a checkout person at a grocery store.  

We can also work on being open to others’ need. Part of this is to not allow ourselves to so focus on our important work or other activities that we have neither the time, attention, or energy to act on behalf of other people, our community, the social good. Which of us has at times not acted when we should have? We do need to balance our concerns and obligations with those of others, but if others’ need is great, hopefully, we can attend to it.

I have often had people who wanted to find some ways to make a contribution, to volunteer, come up after talks I gave, and say there are so many issues and problems—I don’t know what to do. I usually said, choose one realm that is close to your heart. If you want to help children, there are many programs. Research shows, for example, that the Big Brothers Big Sisters program provides children with substantial benefits. In addition, also respond to great emergencies. Help as best as you can after 9/11, or after a genocide somewhere, with funds or when possible also in more direct ways, working with organizations that try to do the difficult thing of helping people after such tragedies.  

Finally, attend to the children; your own, your grandchildren, other people’s children. In a kind, gentle, understated way. One of my friends grew up in a very difficult family with painful experiences. He told me how much it meant to him that his neighbors, apparently aware of his family situation, asked him in, just a few times. The man in that family liked carpentry and spent time with him building something. Their kindness, he felt, had a lifelong effect on him. I also encountered other stories like this. In a different but somewhat related realm, I asked students to write “personal papers” in some of my classes, applying the course material to their own lives. A few reported how a teacher in high school turned their lives around, by caring, kindness, and attention to them as individuals and students. Everyone has the potential to be an active, positive bystander, and make a difference in the world. 

Change Makers Leadership Program Launches in Nigeria
Students and faculty at American University of Nigeria (AUN) Academy in Yola, Nigeria, took part in the Change Makers Leadership Program (Picture: AUN)Students and faculty at American University of Nigeria (AUN) Academy in Yola, Nigeria, took part in the Change Makers Leadership Program (Picture: AUN)
Change Makers Leadership Program Launches in Nigeria
By: Lucy Browett 

Students participate in a Salzburg Global-inspired leadership training program

A Salzburg Global-inspired program to promote pluralism and tackle extremism across Africa has launched in Nigeria.

Starting on September 26, students and faculty at American University of Nigeria (AUN) Academy in Yola, Nigeria, took part in the Change Makers Leadership Program, a week-long training program focusing on teaching leadership skills among 15 to 18-year-old African students.

The Program evaluates historical atrocities, such as the Rwandan Genocide, the Holocaust, and apartheid in South Africa, and uses them as case studies to encourage students to think critically about how to combat extremism in the future.

Its goal is to give its participants the tools to address the needs of their communities as well as work towards creating peaceful African societies. The Change Makers Leadership Program spends two days with the teachers, followed by a youth workshop for the students, to allow them to carry the work forward in Nigeria

Abba Abubakar Tahir, vice president for university relations at AUN, discussed the impact of the program and its scope to be implemented in other education facilities.

Speaking with AUN, Tahir said, “As an institution focused on community engagement and service learning, I wish to assure you that after this inaugural training, beneficiaries would immediately reach out to other schools and communicate our mission to expand the benefits.”

Salzburg Global Fellows Tali Nates, Richard Freedman, Freddy Mutanguha, and Mubigalo Aloys Mahwa conceived of the Change Makers Leadership Program while attendingLearning from the Past: Promoting Pluralism and Countering Extremism in 2016, part of the Salzburg Global’s Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention series, when they set out to design a program for Africans by Africans. Through the collaboration of teams from Rwanda and South Africa, the activities were further developed and piloted in those two countries during 2017. 

At Learning from the Past: Sharing Experiences across Borders to Combat Extremism in 2017, Nates and Mutanguha were joined by Fellows from across Africa to explore ways to spread the work continent-wide. Nates and Mutanguha have subsequently crisscrossed Africa to make the Program available in 18 additional countries by 2019, including most recently successful launches in Mozambique, the Gambia, Senegal, and Nigeria.

The launch of the Change Makers Leadership Program in Nigeria was made possible through funding from the University of Leeds, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. It was organized through a partnership between the American University of Nigeria, the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre, the Kigali Genocide Memorial, and Aegis Trust. Salzburg Global Fellow Obioma Uche, assistant professor of petroleum engineering at AUN, has coordinated the efforts there.

The six facilitators conducting the Program at AUN Academy were from Rwanda and South Africa. Various secondary schools in these countries have already successfully implemented the Program.

Tali Nates told AUN, “We developed a program that looks at youth leadership but looking at it through the lens of past histories. We wanted to look at a difficult past in three case studies in Africa, locally in our country, and globally.”

Learning from the Past: Promoting Pluralism and Countering Extremism took place as part of the Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention multi-year series. This series has been running since 2010 in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The series promotes peace, reconciliation, and pluralist societies by advancing structured dialogue, research, knowledge-sharing, and cross-border projects, engaging educators, practitioners and museum curators from over 50 countries, mostly from the Global South, and many with recent experience of mass violence or rising extremism. Cross-border and cross-cultural exchanges have fostered new ways of thinking and have facilitated international partnerships for building better societies, generating outreach to the next generation.  

Salzburg Global President's Report 2018
Salzburg Global President's Report 2018
By: Louise Hallman 

The 2018 edition of the Salzburg Global President’s Report presents the renewed mission and strategic framework of the organization, announces an exciting new campaign, and reviews each of the last year’s programs

“How does a relatively small but influential NGO help shape a better world? That is the question Salzburg Global Seminar set out to answer as we entered our 70th anniversary year,” explains Salzburg Global President & CEO, Stephen L. Salyer in this year’s edition of the Salzburg Global Chronicle

Founded in 1947, Salzburg Global Seminar has the mission to challenge current and future leaders to shape a better world. Our multi-year program series aim to bridge divides, expand collaboration and transform systems. 


This year’s edition of the Salzburg Global Chronicle puts forth this renewed mission and strategic framework of the 70-year-old organization through a series of features and mini profiles of our Fellows and their projects.

A Positive Space in a Polarizing World
From Students to Statesmen

Combined Efforts, Maximum Effect 
From Ideas to Impact

Radical Reinvention
From Local to Global


The Chronicle also announced the launch of Salzburg Global’s largest-ever fundraising campaign. Inspiring Leadership: The Campaign for Salzburg Global Seminar will seek to raise $18 million over the next three years to expand our scholarship program, invest in developing innovative solutions to complex problems and secure this organization and our historic home of Schloss Leopoldskron for generations to come. 

“Campaigns are about vision. They support critical, compelling and transformational priorities,” states Salyer. “The Campaign Inspiring Leadership  — gift by gift, investment by investment — will empower people, policies, and placemaking that can transform the world.” 

For the Love of Humankind
From Scholarships to Schloss Renovations


Now in its fifth year, this year’s Chronicle is for the first time accompanied by a “Yearbook.” As Clare Shine, Salzburg Global Vice President and Chief Program Officer explains: “Our 2017 Yearbook draws these rich strands together. It provides an overview of our activities and partnerships in Salzburg and around the world, highlighting our multi-year program goals and the concrete outcomes driving short and longer-term impact. We wish you good reading and look forward to working with you in the future.”

Download the Yearbook (PDF)

You can read all the stories and download both sections of the 2018 President’s Report on the dedicated webpage: 


Combating Extremism and Promoting Pluralism
Combating Extremism and Promoting Pluralism
By: Salzburg Global Seminar 

The Salzburg Global Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention series publishes new report 

Xenophobia, racism, and violent extremism are tearing at the fabric of societies across the globe. Although contexts and specifics differ, many shared human values do not: the wish to live in peace and security, and to ensure a positive future for the next generation. At the same time, where atrocities have occurred there is a need to commemorate victims and to confront perpetrators without perpetuating a cycle of violence or creating a climate overwhelmed by vengeance.

Faced with a rise in violent extremism, policymakers are under pressure to invest in prevention and to show that it works. Structured efforts to reduce extremist mindsets and behaviors have existed for some time, but evidence of effectiveness is often not widely known or utilized. Many interventions require considerable time to effect change, making rigorous measurement of their success over the long-term resource-intensive with sustained political will around an often-unpopular topic. What works? How do we know? And will it work in different geographic, cultural, and political contexts?

These were the questions at the front mind for the educators, practitioners and museum curators invited to take part in a new phase of Salzburg Global Seminar’s Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention multi-year program series as they devised strategies to support cultures of prevention, with a specific focus on Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. 

Funded by the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the two-year project saw Fellows collaborate within and across countries to develop locally-driven, culturally-sensitive and -specific responses to combat extremism and promote pluralism in the five focus countries: Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, Rwanda, and South Africa.

The new report, Combating Extremism and Promoting Pluralism, presents the findings of the project from August 2016 to March 2018, starting with a workshop at Schloss Leopoldskron, culminating in several successful pilot projects that are now being scaled-up across their regions, and generating a series of concrete recommendations for others wishing to implement their own projects to combat extremism and promote pluralism. Interviews with several Fellows are also included.

Pilot Projects

Fellows from Rwanda and South Africa collaborated in launching the Change Makers Program, a leadership program for high school students. Using case studies on the Rwandan genocide, South African apartheid and the Holocaust, students develop critical thinking skills and are empowered to be agents of positive change. 

In Egypt, educators at the American University of Cairo (AUC) established the Civic Peace Education Initiative. This strives to integrate community-based learning, intergenerational dialogue and storytelling into the curriculum and prompts students and faculty to think about societal divides and adopt values of global citizenship. Similarly, Fellows at the International University of Rabat in Morocco developed a graduate degree program in Conflict Resolution and Peace Governance. 

In Pakistan, as part of its mission to protect youth against extremist recruitment efforts, the Renaissance Foundation for Social Innovation, Pakistan (RESIP) used this funding to conduct a study on the effect of socio-religious identities in shaping university students’ behavior. Elsewhere in the country, Fellows at Kohat University launched a study circle to connect students across the country’s northwestern provinces. 

“After the Holocaust, people have repeated the mantra ‘never again’ – but then mass atrocities keep happening,” explains Charles Ehrlich, Salzburg Global Program Director.  “In Salzburg, we’ve heard first-hand accounts of tragedies taking place right now afflicting the Rohingya and the Yazidis, among others. Many of our participants in this program have themselves witnessed or survived unspeakable horror.

“As an institution based in Austria, a country which itself continues to have difficulty addressing its own Nazi legacy, Salzburg Global Seminar has an especially important role in working with our colleagues from countries across the world to both address their own difficult histories and, through grassroots action, to seek to create a future where these tragedies do not repeat. The network has grown organically – mostly consisting of Fellows from countries in the Global South – as a way to break the isolation, so they have the opportunity to share experiences and ideas and to learn from each other how to develop initiatives appropriate for the circumstances of their own countries.”

All five of the pilot projects are now poised for expansion or replication over the course of 2018 and 2019. For its part, Salzburg Global intends to continue this series on Holocaust education and combating extremism through the convening of future sessions in Salzburg, as well as by supporting in-region gatherings of Fellows to aid in the execution of these initiatives.

Download the Report

Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention is a multi-year program series held in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It is funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with further support from Ronald D. Abramson, the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria, The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung

Ayub Ayubi - “I Had No Time for Thinking Independently”
A former zealot-turned-social activist, Ayub Ayubi now helps other young people in Pakistan to de-radicalize
Ayub Ayubi - “I Had No Time for Thinking Independently”
By: Helena Santos and Mirva Villa 

Pakistani social activist reflects on his past leading up to his current work of promoting de-radicalization and preventing violent extremism in his home country

Today Ayub Ayubi is a Pakistani social activist dedicated to youth empowerment and to engaging college students from different cultural and religious backgrounds through the Renaissance Foundation for Social Innovation, Pakistan (RESIP). But this story could have been radically different if Ayubi had not attended college. Born and raised in a “religiously fanatic environment” as he describes it, Ayubi’s childhood was marked by hatred and extremist views on how to treat others who didn’t belong to the deobandi – a strict Sunni school of thought.

“My time was divided 40% for school, 30% for madrassa and the rest of the time for my family. In this proportion I had no time for thinking independently or I was not allowed to go around freely with friends not of my culture. The parents belong to a deobandi sector and they didn’t want any friend outside that sector.”

Gaining time to think and his own space is what Ayubi considers as the defining moment in his life. While in college he started to have contact with believers from other Muslim sects and it led him to challenge preconceived notions that were prevalent in his household, like how the Shias are the enemies of Islam.

“At the college time I changed my circle of friends and that was the time I began to change. I improved myself and it was the initial point for me to de-radicalize myself and to have some freedom, for me to have some space for myself. That was the beginning of it and I really love that moment.”

This passion and will to change his extremist ways propelled him to create a safe space for others to go through the same process he had. Hence RESIP was born.

His main goal with RESIP, an organization he founded in 2011 and of which he now serves as its chairman, is to promote de-radicalization and preventing violent extremism in his country. With support from Salzburg Global Seminar, he is now also piloting another de-radicalization project, as part of the Salzburg Global Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention Program.

RESIP started as an informal way for students to gather and have the opportunity to discuss their own views, and since 2011 it has helped 5000 young Pakistanis. Seven years later RESIP has two nationwide programs, one of which is Mashal-e-Rah.

“Mashal-e-Rah is an on campus campaign for alternative engagement to stop the recruitment of extremist groups like ISIS/Daesh and many of these jihad groups [that] are actively working within the campus. We are trying with this campaign to provide young people a platform where they could share their voices, that could share their grievances against the state, against their own families, against the campus, anyone.”

Issues such as gender equality, Islamic extremism and other religions are discussed by students who have different views so that they have a chance to develop empathy with the other person’s believes and values. Mashal-e-Rah is currently present in 25 campuses across Pakistan.

“We are not judging them; we are giving them an option to speak up [...] We are trying to let them realize that violence is not an option and that you need to tolerate other people’s views.”

Having a space to talk and confront different ideologies is exactly one of the things Ayubi cherishes the most about his time in Salzburg. In his opinion, global meetings are the key to think of the world without any constraints imposed by family, society, governments or media.

“I would call it building empathy with the international community. That’s what we need at this stage. That’s one of the stepping stones toward peacebuilding and this is what I’m learning from here.”

Ayub Ayubi is a Fellow of the Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention Program. This multi-year series is held in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with further support from Ronald D. Abramson, the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria, The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. More information is available here: