Author Archive: directorifi

She Was a Child Bride and She Has Something to Tell Us

Guest Blog by Stacy Parker Le Melle

I know that forgiveness is crucial to human harmony. I know I’m supposed to forgive my trespassers. But when 2013-06_campaign-for-love-and-forgivenesscalled upon to actually forgive, I may be good at “letting go” and “moving on” but does anyone’s name ever leave that ledger inside my mind, the one that keeps track of those who have hurt me? I’m not sure. Though I know that forgiveness is the path to peace, the operative word–still– is know. Action is something else altogether.

Then I read a poem by Massoma, a writer in the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. I am floored. I have read this poem multiple times, and each time I am struck not just by what she has been through, but her generosity–the depth of which seems hard for me to even comprehend:

Forgiveness: A Prose Poem
By Massoma

My head exploded, full of their talking, talking. They talked and talked and sold me. They laughed, happy. I was sad and crying, had no power over this. I played, the child I was. I played, but had to go toward the life that would be mine. My head exploded, full of new talking. They talked and talked. I was not a good bride. I was not a perfect woman, because I was thirteen. My head exploded, full of their talking. They talked and talked and beat me. Filled with pain, I was a mother, but had nothing. I had forgiven, all of my life, move now toward my future, happy. My head exploded. My head exploded. I love my infant, my family. I have forgiven all–parents, husband, the government. I am happy. My baby laughs and I laugh. Life laughs, and I am happy.

Her baby laughs and she laughs. Life laughs, and she is happy. The beauty and hard-won hope in those lines fill me with awe. I am reminded of the greatness that humans have within them–because for me, this is greatness. If Massoma can forgive those who forced her to marry as a child, who treated her as chattel, who beat her when she disobeyed, I call on all of us to look at pains we carry, at the anger we can’t let go, and challenge ourselves to seek healing–to call on our reserves of love. And release.

Stacy Parker Le Melle is Workshop Director for the Afghan Women’s Writing Project and Author of “Government Girl: Young and Female in the White House.”

The Afghan Women’s Writing Project is a California-based organization whose mission is to support the voices of women with the belief that to tell one’s story is a human right. The Campaign for Love and Forgiveness is sponsored by the Fetzer Institute.

This blog is a shortened version of the original blog that was posted on June 13, 2013, in the Global Motherhood section of The Huffington Post.

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Forgiveness Offered to Rebels, to Colombia – Five years after being kidnapped and held captive in the jungles of Colombia for six years, former Colombian presidential candidate, Ingrid Betancourt, is calling for forgiveness toward the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and as a general attitude as a pathway to healing in her country.

“We are all, in Colombia, responsible for this horrible war. We are all part of a generation that, with forgiveness, must assume this responsibility.”

When asked if she would ever consider forgiving the FARC commander who held her prisoner, she said this: “Life gave him the possibility to understand what he made us go through since he’s now a prisoner, like we were,” she said. “If I had him in front of me, I would simply hug him.”

Read the full story:  “Five years after freedom, Betancourt urges forgiveness.”

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Forgiveness: A Pathway to Emotional Healing – October 16

Spend the day gaining a new perspective on forgiveness with the man Time magazine calls “the forgiveness trailblazer” – Robert Enright, UW-Madison Professor and founder of the International Forgiveness Institute.

In this 6-hour program, you will learn the answers to these questions:

  • What is forgiveness? What is it not?
  • Why forgive?
  • What is the pathway to forgiveness?
  • How can you help your clients bring forgiveness to their lives; and how can we all bring forgiveness to our families, schools, work places and other communities for better emotional health?

Prof. Enright will also share his multi-step process leading to forgiveness, which is based on his more than 25 years of scientific research. Some concepts you will explore are:

  • Uncovering Your Anger
  • Deciding to Forgive
  • Working on Forgiveness
  • Discovery and Release from Emotional Prison

Approved Hours/Continuing Education Credits: 0.6 CEU = 6.0 hours of professional continuing education for Social Workers, Counselors, WI Psychologists, Marriage and Family Therapists, WI Substance Abuse Counselors, and other professionals. See Seminar Brochure for details.

Date:  October 16, 2013
Place: Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, Madison, WI 53706-1487
Time:  9 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Cost:  In-Person: $150.00; Recorded Audio: $75.00.

Get the Seminar Brochure and registration information.

For more information contact conference coordinator Barbara Nehls-Lowe by phone at 608-890-4653 or by email at

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I Forgave Him Then Wiped Him Off My Hands Like Dirt

Clenched fistChicago Sun-Times – For Cook County Assistant Public Defender Jeanne Bishop, whose sister and brother-in-law–Nancy and Richard Langert –were slain by high school student David Biro in April 1990, forgiveness was “right away.”

But telling him personally was something else.

“I told myself I forgave him and then wiped him off my hands like dirt,” Bishop said. “I thought forgiving David for what he’d done was enough, but I never thought about communicating with him. I just wanted to separate myself from him. . . leave him in the dust.”

Several months ago, at the urging of a friend, Bishop decided to begin a reconciliation process with Biro and personally present her forgiveness.

“I wrote him a letter and he responded immediately,” she said, a 15-page handwritten letter claiming responsibility for the murders–something he had denied during his trial. He apologized to me and my family.”

Last February, they met “face to face,” she said.

“I touched the hand of the man who held the gun that killed my sister and he told me he wished he could undo it all. He was remorseful. It was profoundly moving to see this person I had mythologized. It was good to shake his hand and look him in the eye.

“Someone once told me not forgiving was like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I needed to do this for God and Nancy and me.” As for the future, Bishop says, “I’m just beginning this journey of reconciliation with David.”

Read the full story: “Forgiveness for a Killer.”

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Forgiveness on the Killing Fields of Cambodia

The Huffington Post – As a boy of eleven, Sokreaksa Himm and his Cambodian family were forced-marched from their home in Siem Reap out into the rural area to work in farming. It was there that he watched as the villagers hacked to death his father and brothers and later his mother. Lying under dead bodies in the pit in which the killers had dumped their victims, he waited until they left to make his escape.

Himm was one of the lucky ones. “The killing fields” of Cambodia were as foreboding as “The ovens” of Auschwitz. In four years — 1975-1979 — as many as three million Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge regime or died from starvation or disease. As a result, Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot is sometimes described as “the Hitler of Cambodia.”

After Himm escaped from his family’s killers, he was able to cross the border into Thailand and was eventually sent to Canada where he was cared for by World Vision (an international Christian relief organization) at one of their refugee centers. There, his young mind was not only plagued by the memory of his family now dead — with the exception of his sister — but feelings of revenge for those who had so devastated his family and his life. Those feelings began to change, however, after he enrolled at Providence University College near Winnipeg, Canada–a school that proclaims: We help you see your education through a Christian worldview.

“I could tell that something was wrong with me, and underneath thecambodia-map fa??ade I suddenly realized that I needed to forgive totally,” Himm recalls.??”Forgiveness is not easy, but if I allowed the big ball of fire to keep burning inside my heart, my life would not be worth living. . . When I could not forgive, I was actually burying myself into the grave of bitterness, anger and hatred.”

Determined, Himm returned to Cambodia and to the village of Kokpreach where he met with the man who killed his father and the one who killed his mother. He tied a Cambodian scarf around each of their necks as a symbol of forgiveness. Then he gave them a Cambodian Bible and read from Luke 23:34 — “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do…” — and in so doing, offered his forgiveness.

Himm has since found his sister and returned to his family home in Siem Reap where he’s determined to build a new and better life for himself and his fellow Cambodians.

Read the full story: A Face in Pol Pot’s Killing Fields.”

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