While filming ritual reconciliation processes in Sierra Leone, peacebuilder and philanthropist Libby Hoffman learned that justice for Sierra Leonians isn't about punishing or ousting a perpetrator. Rather, justice comes through making the community whole again.
Imagine living next door to a person who murdered your father, raped your sister, or even killed your child. This was the case for many people in Sierra Leone who endured a brutal civil war from 1991 to 2002: the majority of the 50,000 who died were those killed by their own neighbors.
While working with a program that facilitates ritual reconciliation processes in Sierra Leone, a process known as fambul tok (or “family talk”), peacebuilder and philanthropist Libby Hoffman learned that justice for Sierra Leonians isn't about punishing or ousting a perpetrator. Rather, justice comes through making the community whole again. “When you hurt somebody, you don't just hurt them; you hurt the community as well,” says Hoffman.
In this episode, host Jamil Simon speaks with Libby Hoffman about fambul tok, a process she calls “building peace from the inside out.” Fambul tok is an ancient tradition where disputes are solved through community-wide conversation around a bonfire. In this post-war context, Hoffman and her team facilitated the revival of the practice for Sierra Leonians.
Hoffman also documented this remarkable peacebuilding process in her award-winning documentary film Fambul Tok, which has itself catalyzed further reconciliation within Sierra Leone’s war-torn communities. Hoffman has now written a book on her experiences called The Answers Are There: Building Peace from the Inside Out.
Libby Hoffman is the founder and President of Catalyst for Peace, a US-based private foundation building peace from the inside-out – creating space for those most impacted by violence to lead in building the peace, supported by healthy, inclusive systems. A former Political Science professor, Hoffman has a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and a BA in Political Science from Williams College.
The film Fambul Tok is available for private viewing through War Stories Peace Stories' Peace Docs initiative. Watch the film here: vimeo.com/26644766.
This episode was produced by Andrea Muraskin, with help from Faith McClure. Music by Xylo-Ziko via freemusicarchive.org.