Archive for February, 2016

Forgiveness Education Around the World

Editor’s Note – As Dr. Enright winds down his world forgiveness travels this month, he provided this update from Galilee, Israel. Here is the encouraging news from each of the countries he is visiting.

Belfast, Northern Ireland 

We had many meetings in Belfast  including a two-day workshop on forgiveness education for teachers from 10 different integrated schools. The integrated schools have both Irish Catholic and British Protestant students going to the same schools. Up until about 10 years ago, this was very rare.

Last June, a 2-hour “Forgiveness Education Pilot Session” was held at Hazelwood Integrated Public School by NICIE- the Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education. Since  then, one of the teachers there has been working to recruit other schools into the program and we’ve worked very closely with NICIE to expand the Forgiveness Program to other integrated schools.                                                                                                           

Athens and Thessaloniki, Greece

Peli Galiti, a native of Athens who now lives in Madison, is taking the lead in bringing forgiveness education to about 1,000 students in Greece this year.

She arranged for me to speak at two public meetings and two meetings with teachers. These were very productive, especially the public talk in Athens where 350 people showed up—a capacity crowd.  In Thessaloniki, more than 150 people attended our presentation. The enthusiasm was evident among both crowds. It seems to me that Greece is fertile ground on which forgiveness education can grow.

Peli is arranging for our anti-bullying forgiveness guide to be translated and published in June by an Athenian publisher who will do the same with our Curriculum Guides.

Visit the IFI-Greece pages on Facebook.

Jerusalem and Galilee, Israel

Doors are also opening for forgiveness education in Israel.  I had a meeting yesterday with educators not only from Jerusalem but also as far away as Jericho (a six-hour walk–15 miles,  24 km—with an elevation increase of about 3,400 ft, 1060 km).

A peace leader here is encouraging me to initiate a major conference in June of 2017 with a focus on forgiveness within the Hebrew/Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions (day one) followed by a second day of talks on Forgiveness Education, with invitations going to people in Greece, Belfast, Liberia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and anywhere else we would like to plant forgiveness education.

Hmmmm…..a major conference on forgiveness and forgiveness education in Jerusalem? With a publication of the papers presented there?…….Ok……… Would any of you like to help work on the development of this major conference in Jerusalem? I have a donor in mind in Milwaukee. We shall see.

Today we’re off to the Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEEI) in Ibillin, Galilee, where we began a Forgiveness Program in their high school last year. This school year, eight high school teachers at MEEI are teaching forgiveness, involving about 600 students in the lessons.

I’ll meet with the head of Education in Galilee before trekking back to Jerusalem for more meetings with peace leaders there, who all of a sudden are seeing the great need for forgiveness education.

For example, a school system that encompasses Jerusalem, Jericho, and the West Bank today committed to forgiveness education for all students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade – 20 schools and 10,000 students.  I will try my best.  They want me back in mid-August to do teacher training.  They could become a model for this area of the Middle East……..we shall see.

One peace leader in Galilee said to me yesterday, “There is no way out of the conflicts here unless forgiveness is in the center.” Ask me if I agree with this. Oh, and this same peace leader wants to start forgiveness education in the prisons of Israel, which he mentioned to me before I mentioned to him our latest initiatives at the Columbia, WI maximum security prison. He was surprised and happy to hear of our ideas. 

The Philippines 

Finally, I will head to the Philippines, a tropical Southeast Asian country composed of more than 7,100 islands that are home to more than 98 million people.

The acceptance of forgiveness education in Manila and neighboring Quezon City has been exceptional since last year when we started working with Metro Manila Christian Church and Hope Worldwide, an international organization that provides protection, education and health services to poor Filipino children.

Visit the IFI-Philippines pages on Facebook.

Correcting Two Misconceptions

A recent article (which will go unnamed here) stated that our Process Model of how people forgive begins with the forgiver seeking “revenge.” This is not correct. In our model, we think it is important that the forgiver have a period of anger, mourning, even some confusion of feelings for a while. Why? Becoming angry or exasperated by others’ injustices seems to be part of the human condition. People do get angry when mistreated. This is not a bad thing nor should it be discouraged, presuming, of course, that the anger is expressed in a temperate way, without vitriol or violence.

Revenge, on the other hand, is the intemperate action of wanting to get back at another, perhaps even to hurt the other, if the revenge-seeker was hurt. Revenge is a path to destruction, of the self and of relationships. We do not advocate the extremism of revenge.

The second misconception of our thinking is that the authors of the (unnamed) article stated that ours is a Cognitive-Behavioral model. It is not. The Cognitive-Behavioral model is based on the assumption that our thoughts are central and can change one’s entire psychology of thinking, feeling, and behavior. We do see that thoughts about an unjust other person are important. For example, seeing the inherent worth of all, including the one who acted unfairly, is part of the forgiveness process. Yet, it is just that—a part of the process. Other parts of the process include the fostering, slowly over time, of compassion toward the one who offended, not because of what happened, but in spite of that. Further, the forgiver bears the pain of what happened, which is not a thought as much as it is a decision to do no harm to the one who may have done harm. Love is the core of forgiveness and love is not strictly a cognitive phenomenon.

So, be careful in what you read when Person A is talking about Person B’s work. It may not represent Person B’s views.