The course of human history has been, and will continue to be, painted with the conflict of war and its aftermath. Whether it be in the guise of fighting for the greater good, or serving the greed of the powerful few, truth remains that war is a crime against humanity—it destroys not only the lives of those involved but also wounds and affects the generations thereafter.

Last July, the 11th leg of the series of the International Conference of NGOs on History and Peace was held in Metro Manila with the theme “Historical Justice and a Peaceful Community in East Asia.” It was organized by History NGO Forum for Peace in East Asia (Seoul, Korea), Philippine World War II Memorial Foundation, and Hunters-ROTC Historical Society and was participated in, by the Philippines, Korea, Japan, China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand, and several European countries.

The discussion’s takeoff point: How do we create communities of nations that live in solidarity and cooperation, capable of avoiding conflict and war? First, we must help heal the wounds of the war by serving historical justice to the victims of war and give closure.

Understanding and sharing a common history is a powerful tool in building meaningful relationships between nations. At the conference, there were discussions about shared norms and civil society charter across Asia, historical justice for comfort women during World War II, territorial issues and disputes, and sustainable peace and international cooperation. These were not easy panel discussions; old wounds still sting when exposed to open air, and there were several animated exchanges. But the fact that these are being addressed and an avenue is presented to air grievances is a move toward international relationship building.

The impact of initiatives such as these from the NGOs, the academe, collective professionals, and concerned ordinary citizens creates a positive force. It is also the continuing hope of the conference that the exchange of ideas, history, and perspective would nurture the insight and wisdom of each of the nations, to give justice to the wronged, and to ensure that the present learn from the bitter lessons of the past. —MARCO NICANOR

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