News Updates


20 May 2020

Like so many other groups, the healing of the memories team in Luxembourg has had to cancel many of the activities it had planned for the period starting in March 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of our biggest regrets was the cancellation of Father Michael Lapsley’s visit to the country and all the related events scheduled for May. We were looking forward to organising a prison workshop for 15 inmates at Luxembourg prison, as well as holding a number of training sessions with him for our different facilitator groups – beginners, trainee co-facilitators, trained facilitators and lead facilitators. Some of us were also due to travel with him to Antwerp to lead the first-ever workshop in Belgium, hosted by the Without Walls prison outreach group there. We also planned to hold a reunion for people who had attended our Luxembourg workshop in December, including 9 participants from a local refugee home.


As lockdown was declared in the region, all these activities seemed doomed to oblivion! Of course, we knew that communication was still possible through videoconferencing. However, how can you realistically hope do healing of memories work on Zoom or Skype? Even the trainingsessions require a large degree of interaction and role playing. Not easy to imagine in a virtual setting. Aren’t body language and eye contact fairly basic aspects of the process of creating a safe space? 


Plenty of apparent obstacles! And yet we knew that the self-isolation rules would continue to apply for many weeks, if not months. It was important to maintain the momentum among our facilitators who had been looking forward to this period of further training and practical experience. And so we decided, with encouragement from Father Michael, to invite them to take part in Zoom conversations.


Since then, we have been holding fortnightly virtual meetings with our three groups, plus some of our fellow trainees in France and Canada, moderated by Father Michael, and this has proved extremely beneficial for a variety of reasons.


First of all, the meetings have given us all an opportunity to share about the current lockdown experience – its impact on ourselves, on the people around us and on many others whom we know of. Contrary to what we expected, these video conversations have turned out to be moments of profound sharing and an important step in our teambuilding process. Talking about what we are going through, individually and collectively, hearing about one another’s feelings, whether of peacefulness or anxiety, and experiences of loneliness or solidarity, has made us all the more aware of our need to be on our own healing journeys. And that this is all part of our training if we wish to become good facilitators.


Secondly, we have been able to take significant steps forward in our training programme. Despite all its possible shortcomings, videoconferencing has enabled us to continue in our learning process, thanks in particular to Father Michael’s remarkable interactive skills, enabling participants to find the answers themselves rather than spoon-feeding them with ready-made theories. Given how successful these virtual training sessions have been so far, we are about to try role-playing exercises. Difficult to imagine in a virtual setting? We are now feeling quietly optimistic and looking forward to the challenge.


Finally, our meetings are giving us a chance to take stock and look to the future. In the short term , we need to devise a way of holding a reunion for participants in our most recent workshop. However, we are also looking to the longer term. What will be the role of healing of memories in the new phase of world history that we are entering? What scars is the present pandemic leaving in its wake? What will we as facilitators need to be attentive to, in particular as regards the mental health problems of so many people who feel devastated – emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, not to mention financially – as a result of the profound changes taking place. And how can we best adapt our working methods – including our use of technology – to respond, as and when appropriate, to such needs?

About Us

The Institute for the Healing of Memories seeks to contribute to the healing journey of individuals, communities and nations. Our work is grounded in the belief that we are all in need of healing, because of what we have done, what we have failed to do, and what has been done to us.

Contact Us

  • Institute for Healing of Memories
    5 Eastry Road, Claremont,
    Cape Town, 7708, South Africa

  • +27 21 683 6231