Building Resilience from Tragedy:
Understanding Hate, Violence, Loss, and Reconciliation
“Forgiveness and reconciliation are not just ethereal, spiritual, other-wordly activities. They have to do with the real world. They are realpolitik, because in a very real sense, without forgiveness, there is no future.”
― Archbishop Desmond Tutu
"Grief and resilience live together.”
― Michelle Obama
Grief. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Resilience. The path from grief to resilience is neither straight nor the same for everyone. But the reward for perseverance is the ability to transform challenges into successes.
In this age of instantaneous information, we must ask ourselves whether hate and violence are more prevalent, or are we simply aware of such incidents more quickly. Perhaps that question matters far less than how we confront, overcome, and learn from these horrific episodes.
Understanding the origins and effects of tragedy and resilience is not the province of a single academic discipline or speciality. Indeed, this effort demands an interdisciplinary approach and insight from every corner of human knowledge and endeavor. The Devil may be in the details, but intriguing answers are waiting to be uncovered in laboratories, libraries, theaters, and the relationships between universities and their communities.
Why Pittsburgh? Known as the Steel City and the City Of Bridges, Pittsburgh has recent experience with the unspeakable violence that can be ignited by hate and the long and painful process of healing. On the morning of 27 October 2018, a lone gunman motivated by anti-Semitism carried out the worst attack on the Jewish community in American history when he entered the Tree of Life Synagogue and killed eleven worshippers and wounded six more. In a matter of minutes, a vibrant and close-knit community was shattered, and Pittsburgh was added to an ever-expanding list of cities affected by a peculiarly American epidemic of mass shootings, including Sandy Hook, CT (2012), Charleston, SC (2015), Parkland, FL (2017), Buffalo, NY (2022), and Uvalde, TX (2022).
Thus, it is entirely appropriate that Pittsburgh will be the host city for NRHC’s 2023 Conference and its tradition of encouraging the rising generation of young scholars to explore uncomfortable questions. The metaphors are irresistible: steel is the symbol of resilience and bridges bring together communities and ideas.
We invite you over the next several days to take your seat at our sumptuous roundtable of ideas and engage in meaningful conversations with your fellow Conference participants. We challenge you, furthermore, to return to your institutions and communities and transform metaphor into action.