Sites of Conscience

Marabou finds inspiration in the work of International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC), an organization that works to remember, bring attention to, and accurately represent periods of civil and human rights violations and struggles for justice. ICSC wants periods of injustice to be well understood so that communities will be inspired to take action to ensure these histories do not repeat themselves. There are over 250 sites in 65 countries ranging from museums to unassuming local community sites. The Instagram post below provides one example of the type of work ICSC does.

(Link to the Thibodaux Massacre article from Smithsonian magazine referenced in the IG post.)

ICSC describes its work in the following way:

A Site of Conscience is a place of memory – such as a historic site, place-based museum or memorial – that prevents this erasure from happening in order to ensure a more just and humane future. Not only do Sites of Conscience provide safe spaces to remember and preserve even the most traumatic memories, but they enable their visitors to make connections between the past and related contemporary human rights issues. In this way, a concentration camp in Europe becomes a catalyst for discussions on modern xenophobia; a Gulag museum in Russia highlights repression of free speech now; and a 200-year-old slave house in Africa sparks action to help the 36 million people who are still enslaved today.

Founded in 1999, the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (“the Coalition”) is the only worldwide network of Sites of Conscience. With over 250 members in 65 countries, we build the capacity of these vital institutions through grants, networking, training, transitional justice mechanisms and advocacy. These members and partners remember a variety of histories and come from a wide range of settings – including long-standing democracies, countries struggling with legacies of violence, as well as post-conflict regions just beginning to address their transitional justice needs – but they are all united by their common commitment to connect past to present, memory to action.

As ICSC says on its website, “The need to remember often competes with the equally strong pressure to forget.” Sometimes people/governments/organizations deal with histories of wrongdoing, violation, and trauma by looking forward and ignoring or erasing the past. This will not rectify the historical offenses. If anything, erasure is more dangerous. Erasure silences the voices of those who were subjected to abuse. If something is erased, future generations may never realize or know an event happened. The work of ICSC is important. They not only support remembrance, but use remembrance as fuel for positive social action and change.


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