Speaking Their Peace

Colette Rausch J.D. ’90 gives voice to the voiceless in her new book.

Speaking Their Peace
June 1998: A child from Kosovo checks his bag while waiting with a group of refugees for a truck to take them to Albania. View full image. Photo courtesy Louisa Gouliamaki / European Pressphoto Agency

You’ve been silenced by the trauma of conflict, gagged by fear and conformity in a troubled land, or muted by the world’s indifference. When you have the chance to be heard at last, what would you say? That’s what Colette Rausch J.D. ’90sought the answer to—through interviews with 80 people in 11 countries, from Iraq to Burma to Peru, from Yemen to Nicaragua to Nepal.

The result is Speaking Their Peace: Personal Stories from the Frontlines of War and Peace (Roaring Forties Press), which carries a foreword from the Dalai Lama.

Why undertake such a book? Rausch is the associate vice president for governance, law, and society at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. She has spent two decades trying to build systems that bolster justice, security, and rule of law in countries emerging from violent conflict. As she writes: “The international community pours billions of dollars into countries emerging from conflict while peacebuilding practitioners toil tirelessly to strengthen stability, good governance, and the rule of law.” So, she argues, they need to “hear the real voices of the people in the field, locals and internationals alike, expressing their personal experiences, fears, and hopes.”

Here is one heartbreaking story from Faze Idrizi in Junik, Kosovo.

My husband, me, and our three sons aged 15, 13, and 10 were in the convoy of tractors and vehicles that was traveling to the Albanian border. We were stopped by the Serbian military, who took the men and boys aside.

The first man that the Serbs stopped was my husband. Then they took other men, too, tied their hands and lined them up in a field just across the road. My uncle’s son and my sister’s son were in the group that was told to step down from tractors. Then they took my son, too. When he saw his father, he stood up, and they took him. He went to his father in the field. My husband told the Serbs that our son was young, so why were they taking him. He was beaten by one of the paramilitary soldiers.

After four years, the remains of my son were found … The remains of my husband were found six months later.

I always think of him. Someone asked me, why are you still dressed in black. I told her I will never dress in other colors. My heart is dark. Until I join my husband, I will be thinking about him.

It is hard to find jobs, and no one cares about us. All three of [my sons] are grown up and need to work. I don’t think about myself and my life. I live only for my children.

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