RMIT Vietnam Lecturer and filmmaker Dr Bryan Urbsaitis recently traveled to Palestine to examine whether a process of reconciliation could finally heal the war-torn region.
In addition to attending the American Federation of Ramallah in Palestine conference, Urbsaitis spent time in the field shooting footage of the apartheid wall checkpoints, infrastructure, and the people of Palestine.
Urbsaitis applied his previous research on the role of reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa to the situation in Palestine.
“In spite of its imperfections, the South African reconciliation model has been hailed largely as a success story,” Urbsaitis said.
“And it is on this level that Palestinians derive inspiration from a similar situation of seemingly-intractable inequity in which human rights and justice eventually overcame racism and discrimination.
“It may not be soon, but in the future, from a reconciliation perspective, it’s likely that a one-state solution should be considered as a viable option.”
A Lecturer in RMIT Vietnam’s Bachelor of Communication (Professional Communication) program, Urbsaitis said his research into reconciliation resonates in his teaching of storytelling.
“I gave my students an assignment to visit one of three museums in Ho Chi Minh City: The War Remnants Museum, Ho Chi Minh City Museum, or Independence Palace, to document how museums serve as tools of education and reconciliation,” Urbsaitis said.
“Negotiation students considered the role of reconciliation and healing after a period of protracted international conflict.”
“Modern Asia students looked critically at how Vietnam has been impacted by globalisation and international development.
“Many of the students were able to produce articles and short journalism pieces based on interviews they conducted and footage they shot while visiting the museums.”
Urbsaitis continues to bridge his former research with his current projects, in an attempt to unearth narratives of oppression and to give a voice to those “unable to speak out for themselves.”
Urbsaitis regards Vietnam as an important model of reconciliation for states like Palestine.
“Palestine has much to learn from the Vietnamese example of reconciliation; [Vietnam is] a nation which has rebranded itself as a beacon of successful international economic development, education, and cooperation welcoming to those of different backgrounds through internationalisation after enduring decades of occupation and attempted colonisation at the hands of various foreign powers,” Urbsaitis said.
Urbsaitis is the author of the book Wounded Healers & Reconciliation Fatigue: The Search for Social Justice & Sustainable Development in South Africa, which has been published in four languages and is currently being translated into Vietnamese.
Story: Daniel Eslick