Author Archive: directorifi

Woman Forgives Her Son’s Killer, Supports His Release From Prison

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin – In a dramatic and emotional meeting this week, the mother of a murdered Milwaukee man embraced and forgave the man who killed her son.

Afriqah Imani’s son, Viltronia Quantrell Williams was shot and killed in 1999 by Gabriel Smith. The now 42-year-old Smith was released on parole Tuesday after serving 14 years of a 25-year prison term for second-degree intentional homicide.

Imani and Smith embraced each other when they met that day at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School in a meeting brokered by the law school’s Restorative Justice Project. Smith’s mother, Mary Ann Smith-Jackson, was also at the meeting and she wrapped her arms around both of them.

“This is a blessing, truly a blessing,” said Imani, who has forgiven Smith and supported his release. Imani, a devout Muslim, added that the meeting was the culmination of a 15-year spiritual journey for her.

“In our faith, if you have ill-will toward someone — if you cannot forgive — you have a dark spot on your heart that will turn to rust, just like a rusty nail,” she said. “I didn’t want to die with this dark spot on my heart.”

Jonathan Scharrer, director of the Restorative Justice Project, said Imani’s ability to forgive is unusual. Founded in 1987 as the Victim-Offender Reconciliation Project/Program, it’s now working with victims and offenders in 17 Wisconsin penal institutions. The organization has coordinated hundreds of dialogues between victims and offenders.

“There is no expectation in these dialogues that there will be any forgiveness. We don’t bring it up,” Scharrer said. Yet, he adds, the process can lead to transformative results. “People recognize the fundamental humanity in each other. And in lots of ways people are changed for the positive.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Smith repeatedly told Imani how he regretted the events of that day in 1999.

“You have to forgive yourself,” Imani told him. “I just wanted you to be able to come back to your family, because life is short.”

Read the full story written by Annysa Johnson of the Journal Sentinel:  “15 years after fatal shooting, an embrace of forgiveness.”

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Mom’s Group at St. Dennis Parish Learns About Forgiveness

“Discovering the gift of forgiveness can change your life and the lives of others around you,” according to Peli Galiti, Ph.D., a Program Manager for the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI). “That’s why we set up forgiveness courses for adults at local parishes this past summer.”

St. Dennis Mom's Group

St. Dennis Mom’s Group

One of those multi-session courses was held at St. Dennis Parish on Madison’s east side as part of an ongoing “Mom’s Group”  that meets weekly to socialize and explore religious topics. That program is organized by Sister Mary Therese Dolan, O.P., a Sinsinawa Dominican nun who heads up the parish’s Faith Formation, RCIA, RCIC, and Pastoral Ministry.

“The main goal of the sessions is to introduce the basic concept of forgiveness,” said Galiti who taught the forgiveness sessions. “Participants learn what forgiveness is and is not, what the major foundational principals involved in forgiving another person are, and how they can help their children understand, appreciate, and practice forgiveness.”

With that new knowledge, Galiti says, mothers can help their families create a home environment based on unconditional love, inherent worth, respect, compassion and joy.Much of what is discussed at the adult sessions is also being taught to students who attend St. Dennis School. St. Dennis is one of nine Madison-area Catholic schools that uses the Forgiveness Education Program developed by Dr. Robert Enright, founder of the IFI.

The program includes Curriculum Guides for teachers at each grade level that employ popular childrens’ story books like those of Dr. Seuss to help students learn forgiveness concepts. St Dennis Principal Matt Beisser has had the forgiveness program taught at each grade level from 4K through eighth since he became principal more than 7 years ago.

To learn more about the IFI’s Forgiveness Curriculum Guides:

A) Read the first three chapters of the Grade 1 Curriculum Guide.

B) Read about the Five Basic Components of Forgiveness – inherent worth, moral love, kindness, respect and generosity.

C) Read A Summary of Each Forgiveness Curriculum Guide from pre-kindergarten through high school.

D) Visit the Curriculum Guides Section of the IFI online store.

If you have questions about the IFI’s Forgiveness Education Program that is now being taught in schools around the world, or if you are interested in starting an adult Forgiveness Education Course at your school or place of worship, contact:

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Mother Forgives Those Who Beat Her Teenage Daughter Beyond Recognition

Winnipeg Free Press, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – A 16-year-old Winnipeg high school student was attacked and beaten so badly last Friday night that her mother couldn’t believe it was her daughter when she first saw her in a hospital intensive care unit.

“I didn’t recognize her,” Julie Harper admitted. “I didn’t think it was Rinelle. But every day, she’s getting a lot better. I believe it is the prayers (from people touched by Rinelle’s attack) which pulled her through.”

Police said Rinelle was out with friends that night but became separated from them. She met two men in the south Broadway area who started talking with her and she walked with them to the riverwalk. That’s where the pair attacked her and tossed her into the river near the Midtown Bridge.

The girl was swept downstream, but when she managed to get out of the frigid water, she was attacked again and left for dead. A passerby discovered the unconscious teenager the next morning and called for help.

On Tuesday, thanks to tips from Winnipeg citizens, a 20-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy were arrested and charged with the teen’s attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault.

“When I first heard there was two arrests, the first thing that came to me was to forgive right away,” Julie Harper said after a news conference Thursday. “If any family members (of the accused) are listening, I forgive them. That’s what I was taught to do by my late grandparents. It’s hard, but I truly forgive them.”

Rinelle was moved from intensive care into a regular hospital ward on Wednesday and her mother said the girl is making steady progress.

Read the full story: “Forgiveness for Rinelle’s attackers: Teen’s mom says it’s what she was raised to do.”
Watch a video of Julie Harper forgiving the two attackers.

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Justice and Forgiveness Confront Each Other in Court

Pittsburgh’s Action 4 News, Beaver, PA – An 85-year-old nun who has spent her entire life helping others while living out her vow of chastity, has forgiven the teenage man who raped her last December.

The victim testified at a preliminary hearing that she was grabbed, punched, choked and ultimately raped, and she told the magistrate she thought she was going to die. She survived the attack by 19-year-old Andrew Bullock who admitted to targeting the woman behind St. Titus Church in Aliquippa, PA.

The Sisters of St. Joseph nun wrote a Victim Impact Statement that was read in court at Bullock’s sentencing hearing on Wednesday. In the statement, the nun said she was asked by the media if she could forgive her attacker. Her response, she wrote, was: “My thought-out answer to the question was and had to be: ‘Of course he is forgiven.’ ”

The nun referred to Bullock by his first name and called him “my brother.” She said they should both “love one another and forgive one another. And, this I do, Andrew. . .”

The judge, who said that he had not seen such depravity in all his 42 years in the criminal court system, sentenced Bullock to 18 – 37 years in state prison.

Read the story: “Elderly nun’s rapist gets prison sentence, forgiveness”

Watch the video: “Nun’s rapist gets prison time from judge, forgiveness from victim”

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Dr. Enright Forgiveness Workshop Now Online

NOTE: A videotaped recording of a webinar that Dr. Enright presented to members of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work (NACSW) in partnership with the Canadian Society for Spirituality and Social Work (CSSSW) is now available for viewing online. Here are the details:

Forgiveness: A Pathway to Emotional Healing

Based on his 25-years of peer-reviewed, empirical scientific research, Dr. Robert Enright will help you discover and learn a step-by-step pathway to forgiveness.  This 4-hour online workshop will enable you to develop confidence in your forgiveness skills and learn how you can bring forgiveness to your family, school, work place and community for better emotional health.

“Forgiveness is a process, freely chosen, in which you willingly reduce resentment through some hard work and offer goodness of some kind toward the one who hurt you,” according to workshop presenter Dr. Enright. “This gives you a chance to live a life of love, compassion and joy.”

Dr. Enright explains during this workshop how you can learn and use that process to help yourself and others. He explains, for example that:

• Forgiveness is NOT reconciliation, forgetting, excusing or condoning.

• Forgiveness does not get rid of the injustice but the effects of the injustice.

• Forgiveness cuts across many different philosophies and religions.

• The benefits of forgiveness are significant: scientific analyses demonstrates that considerable emotional, relational, and even physical health benefits result from forgiving.

• The roadmap to forgiveness is the 20-Step Process Model of Forgiving developed by Dr. Enright.

• Once you’ve learned the forgiveness process, you can help create The Forgiving Community–bringing forgiveness to your family, your church, your clients and your community.

The content of this workshop will not only teach you about forgiveness but it also emphasizes the historical and current religious components of forgiveness.

NACSW (provider #1078) is approved as a provider for social work  sign up now 2continuing education by The Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). Social Workers are eligible for 4.0 continuing education clock hour(s) for completing this training.

Registration fee for this online workshop is $60 for NACSW and CSSSW members; $75 for non-members. Watch a video clip of the first six minutes of the workshop. Get all the details at the NACSW Online Continuing Education website.

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