Preventing Violence and Promoting Active Bystandership and Peace: My Life in Research and Applications

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In this article, I describe some of my research on caring, helping, active bystandership, and the origins of genocide and collective violence, as a background to interventions in real-world settings aimed to create positive change. They include working with teachers to create classrooms that promote caring and helping; training police to prevent or stop unnecessary harmful actions by fellow officers, and similarly students in schools to prevent harmful actions; promoting reconciliation, using trainings and workshops, and educational radio programs in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Congo; working to improve Dutch–Muslim relations in Amsterdam after violence; and a number of other projects. In these projects, information and participants’ experiences combined to create “experiential understanding.” Evaluation studies showed positive effects. These projects and their evaluation show that research- and theory-based interventions can be effective. An initial motivation for this work was my early childhood experience during the Holocaust in Hungary and receiving help from bystanders.

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