Author Archive: directorifi

Forgiveness Education Thrives at Mar Elias High School in Israel

When teachers at the Mar Elias Educational Institutions (MEEI) recently focused lessons on the benefits of forgiveness, some students couldn’t see the point. They vehemently opposed the idea of forgiving anyone, even in their own families, but especially after the 7-week war of 2014.

Although Building Peace on Desktops is MEEI’s highest goal, teaching skills for peace-building can be a challenge – especially when students encounter discrimination and hear news of violence on almost a daily basis. 

This year, thanks to a Pilgrims of Ibillin partnership, MEEI teachers have a new resource: a Forgiveness Education curriculum created for Northern Ireland, tested and refined there over the last 14 years. The creator of this curriculum is Dr. Robert Enright of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, founder  of the International Forgiveness Institute. 

An internationally recognized leader in the field of forgiveness education, Dr. Enright has visited Ibillin twice in the last 8 months to meet with teachers and introduce his forgiveness curriculum. With his guidance, eight high school teachers at MEEI began teaching forgiveness this school year, involving about 600 students in the lessons.
Dr. Enright plans to increase his involvement in training MEEI’s teachers, and MEEI will become a regional training center to offer Forgiveness Training to other schools in Israel/ Palestine as well:
     • On a return visit in June he will meet with MEEI’s elementary and high school teachers for a day of exploring more deeply what forgiveness is and is not.
     • Four other directors of regional schools will be invited to this in-service training, with invited leaders coming from both Arab and Jewish schools.

     • Mar Elias will begin planting forgiveness education deeply in the 9th grade curriculum next year and then continue over the coming years until it is instilled for grades 9, 10, 11, and 12.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is from the Feb. 2015 newsletter of Pilgrims of Ibillin–an organization whose vision is to foster peace and justice in Israel-Palestine through education. Dr. Enright was introduced to the organization and Mar Elias Schools by the Rev. Joan Deming, Executive Director of Pilgrims of Ibillin.

Pilgrims of Ibillin was founded by Abuna Elias Chacour (“Abuna” means “Our Father” in Arabic), a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, who recently retired from serving as the Archbishop of the Melkite Catholic Church for Akko, Haifa, Nazareth, and all Galilee. He is also the author of the best-selling Blood Brothers which has been translated into more than 20 languages.

Father Chacour founded the Mar Elias Schools more than 30 years ago in Ibillin–a small Arab village in the Galilee region, near Nazareth, where Christians and Muslims have lived together peacefully for hundreds of years. The cluster of MEEI schools now serves more than 3,000 students from preschool through high school.

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Mother Forgives Suspects in Fatal Shooting of Her Daughter

The Fresno Bee, Fresno, CA – The mother of a 9-year-old girl killed by a stray bullet fired in a gang shootout said she forgives the men responsible and hopes “they can find peace in their hearts.”

Stacey Gonzales and her daughter, Janessa Ramirez, were chatting with friends in front of a Laundromat on Jan. 18 when Janessa was hit by the stray bullet and soon after died at a local hospital. Brian Cooks, 22, and Isaac Stafford, 19, were arrested and charged with murder less than two weeks later. It was Gonzales’ forgiveness that broke the case open.

“When our detectives told Brian Cooks, ‘Janessa’s mother has forgiven you,’ he broke,” according to Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer. “And then he began to tell the truth (about firing the fatal shot). Forgiveness is powerful.”

Gonzalez told reporters, “I forgive them, and I love them, and I hope they find the Lord … Because now I have my full peace. My baby is in a better place.”

To explain her actions, Gonzalez added, “Think of Janessa. She wouldn’t want people fighting and being mean to each other. Learn to forgive, but don’t forget Janessa.”

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New Book Means “Forgiveness Therapy” is Now Professionally Sanctioned

Forgiveness, as taught and practiced by clinicians in healthcare practice, took a huge step forward this month with the publication of a new book co-authored by IFI founder, psychology professor, and licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Robert Enright.

The American Psychological Association (APA) has just published Forgiveness Therapy: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope by Dr. Enright and psychiatrist Richard Fitzgibbons. Publication of the book by the APA signifies that Forgiveness Therapy is now professionally sanctioned and rightfully taking its place alongside such historically-accepted therapies as Psychoanalysis, Humanistic Psychotherapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy–a huge step forward for forgiveness.

Forgiveness Therapy is actually a Forgiveness Therapynew and updated version of a previous book by Drs. Enright and Fitzgibbons. It is the second edition of Helping Clients Forgive: An Empirical Guide to Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope that was published in 2000.

Benefitting from more than 14 years of new research, the second edition of this title is a vital tool for clinicians interested in this unique method of therapy. Featuring entirely new chapters, the second edition also expands all of the text with new case studies, new empirical evaluation, modern philosophical roots of forgiveness therapy, and new measurement techniques.

From their 30+ years (each) of practicing Forgiveness Therapy, Drs. Enright and Fitzgibbons have demonstrated that forgiveness is a pivotal process in helping clients resolve anger over betrayals, relieve depression and anxiety, and restore peace of mind.

In this new volume, clinicians will learn how to recognize when forgiveness is an appropriate client goal, how to introduce and explain to clients what forgiveness is and is not, and how to provide concrete methods to work forgiveness into therapy with individuals, couples and families.

The book can be purchased at Amazon.com or on the APA website.

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“Forgiveness Saved My Life” says World War II Army Veteran Louis Zamperini who was Immortalized in Book/Movie ‘Unbroken’

The Atlantic.com, Washington, DC – Louis Zamperini waged one of the most astonishing personal battles of World War II as an Army Air Corpsman. Despite being officially listed as “killed in action” by the U.S. Government and surviving two years of  torture in a Japanese prison, Zamperini survived to tell his story and to forgive.

In May 1943, Zamperini’s B-24 crashed into the Pacific. For 47 days, he floated on a raft in the ocean. He was then captured by the Japanese, who held him prisoner until August 1945. These experiences tormented Zamperini’s postwar life leading to constant nightmares, drinking binges, and general carousing.

But in 1949 things began to turn around for Zamperini. After hearing a talk by a young Rev. Billy Graham, he forgave the men who held him prisoner, including the sadistic Japanese corporal, Mutsuhiro Watanabe, known as the “Bird,” who tortured him daily. Without that forgiveness, Zamperini says, “I wouldn’t have a life. I think I’d be dead.”

This saga is chronicled in Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. The award-winning book has remained on the bestseller lists since it was published in 2010, and in December, Universal Studios released a film adaptation directed by Angelina Jolie.

Before his death in July at age 97, Zamperini was interviewed by author John Meroney who knew him when Zamperini was an Olympic athlete before entering the Army. Here are excerpts from one of those interviews:

Meroney: After the war, you had nightmares about being a prisoner of war. Hillenbrand discloses that these dreams were so extreme, you almost strangled your pregnant wife to death in your sleep thinking she was the “Bird,” the man who tortured you.

Zamperini: Those nightmares came every night. I’d always wake up wringing wet. I thought I was strangling the Bird. I honestly wanted to go back to Japan and secretly find and kill him before I’d be satisfied.

Meroney: And your life was never the same after Billy Graham.

Zamperini: Well, that night I went back to his prayer room and made my profession of faith in Christ. I asked God to forgive me for not being conscious that He answered my prayer requests. While I was still on my knees, I knew there was a change. It happened within seconds.

Meroney: What was it?

Zamperini: I felt this perfect calm, a peace. I knew then that I was through getting drunk, smoking, and chasing around. I also knew I’d forgiven all my prison guards, including the Bird. Boy, that’s something. So I got up, went home, and that was the first night in four years that I didn’t have a nightmare. And I haven’t had one since.

Meroney: How did forgiving your captors change your life?

Zamperini: Well, when you hate somebody, you don’t hurt them in the least. All you’re doing is hurting yourself. But if you can forgive—and if it’s true—you’ll feel good. It’s chemical. White corpuscles flood your immune system, and that’s a secret to good health.

Forgiveness has to be complete. If you hate somebody, it’s like a boomerang that misses its target and comes back and hits you in the head. The one who hates is the one who hurts. So forgiving someone is healing. 
                                             

Read the full story: ‘World War II Isn’t Over’: Talking to Unbroken Veteran Louis Zamperini and watch the official Universal Studios movie trailer.

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Mother Forgives Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed Her Daughter

Yuma Sun, Yuma, Arizona – The mother of a 14-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver as the girl was skateboarding home in August 2013 says she has forgiven the driver.

Sandy Garcia spoke earlier this month at the sentencing hearing for Edgar Borquez, the driver of the car in that fatal crash. Garcia told Borquez that despite the loss of her daughter, Mary Rodriguez, she forgives Borquez for what he did and that she will continue praying for him in the hope that he can one day become a better person.

“I want you to know that I truly, truly don’t hate you. I forgive you with all my heart and with all that I am,” Garcia said. “I hope that gives you the peace to move on, never forgetting what you did, so you can grow from it and learn from it. Don’t let this be in vain.”

Mary Rodriguez’s father, Julio Rodriguez, and her stepfather Mario Garcia also spoke during the sentencing, both telling Borquez that they had also forgiven him and hope he can change his life for the better.

Afterward, Borquez was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He had pleaded guilty to a count of second-degree murder last month in a plea agreement.

Read the full story: “Driver gets prison time in fatal hit-and-run” and “First Take: The strength of forgiveness”

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