Twenty-three years of civil war, followed by genocide and foreign occupation, cost between two and three million lives in Cambodia. Long before the Paris agreements of 1991, which allowed the return of peace to Cambodia, teams from Initiatives of Change in France, Australia and the United States maintained extensive contacts with Cambodians in exile. Out of these contacts came requests to organize training for Cambodians on topics such as: How to forgive; The moral and spiritual basis of democracy; How to resist corruption. Many of these training programmes happened at the IofC centre in Caux, Switzerland. Later, several of these Cambodians decided to return to their country where they took up positions of significant responsibility. Their experience of forgiveness towards former enemies enabled them to become agents of reconciliation.
In 1992, at the request of members of the Cambodian Supreme National Council, three IofC teams travelled to Phnom Penh. They organized several seminars in 1993 and 1994 on the need to restore trust in order to build peace and democracy, with participation from political and religious leaders and peacemakers from abroad. This work of reconciliation was supported by the release of two video films in the Khmer language. The first told the story of Irene Laure, a French Resistance leader whose struggle to forgive Germany, and subsequent apology to Germany for her hatred, played a part in the reconciliation between France and Germany after World War 2. The second film draws on Buddhist scriptures in a powerful call to break the vicious circle of hatred and revenge.
See also the article 'Peacemaker from the Killing Fields' about Chea Vanath (pictured here)