Editor’s Note: Robert Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, just returned from a trip to the treacherous Middle East to promote Forgiveness Education. Here is his report:
After three grueling years of trying to break into the Middle East with forgiveness education, we have finally succeeded.
The Mar Elias Schools were started over 30 years ago for integrated education between Arab Christian and Muslim students. The ethos of the school is respect, tolerance, and compassion. About 55% of the families in this region are below the poverty level. The founder of these schools, Elias Chacour, is a three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
The head principal, who runs the high school, is ready to implement forgiveness education this fall in grades 5 through 12 (similar grading system to US schools). The English teachers will provide the instruction.
In the meantime, we will be busy translating the teacher curriculum guides for grades 1-4 into Arabic so we can implement the forgiveness program with these grades in the 2015-2016 school year. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs are still under discussion. There are no English courses from pre-kindergarten through grade 4 so all of the instruction will be in Arabic.
The plan is to implement this forgiveness education program only in the Mar Elias Schools for the 2014-2015 academic year and then make plans (for 2015-2016) to fold in a nearby Jewish school to implement forgiveness education simultaneously with the Mar Elias Schools so that they can have cross-community dialogue among teachers and students on the topic of forgiveness.
In the 2014-2015 academic year, we will conduct Skype sessions focused on forgiveness education with the 11th and 12th grade Israeli students communicating with Edgewood High School students in Madison and students in Monrovia, Liberia, Africa.
I will return to the Mar Elias schools in January, 2015 to continue discussions with the principals who are anxious to expand forgiveness education in the coming years.
By the way, the first floor of the Mar Elias High School is a bomb shelter—required by the Israeli government. There are thick metal casings around the windows and heavily reinforced concrete. Can you imagine attending a school with a mandated bomb shelter in it?
Footnote: During his time in Israel, Dr. Enright was accompanied by Rev. Joan Deming, Executive Director of Pilgrims of Ibillin, a US not-for-profit organization that strategically and financially supports the Mar Elias Educational Institutions. Rev. Deming helped open doors at the MEEI by introducing Dr. Enright to principals and administrators. When not in Israel, Rev. Deming resides in Madison.
It’s been 20 years since the Genocide in Rwanda claimed the lives of more than 800,000 people. You can hear survivors’ stories in their own words by watching Beyond Right & Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness.
Beyond Right & Wrong presents the stories of people who have experienced loss and the stories of people who have caused that loss. From the Rwandan Genocide to the Troubles in Northern Ireland to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, people from different sides of the violence have entrusted all of us with their stories—their anger or remorse, their pain, their paths to recovery.
In the stillness after conflict, after the blood dries and the screams fade, the memory of violence transforms survivors into prisoners of their own pain. How do whole societies recover from devastating conflict? Can survivors live—converse, smile, and even laugh—beside someone who blinded them, killed their parents, or murdered their children? Can victims and perpetrators work together to rebuild their lives? This life-changing documentary explores the intersections of justice and forgiveness as survivors heal from these tragedies.
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love?’ These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will be many fruits, here in this world and the life to come. Henri Nouwen
Forgiveness has a way of cutting through anger, anxiety and depression and restoring emotional health. By forgiving, an individual refuses to let anger and resentment prevail. Dr. Robert Enright
Read more forgiveness quotes at: BrainyQuote.com.
Cape Town, South Africa, April 3, 2014 – Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu today announced the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge, a free online program starting May 4, 2014, designed to teach the world how to forgive. In early registration people from over 100 countries have already signed up to participate.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in leading non-violent opposition to South Africa’s apartheid system of racial domination. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission that he chaired created a way to address the overwhelming suffering and grief that were the legacy of over four decades of racial oppression. Since then he has taken his deeply human approach to resolving conflict to many other countries including Northern Ireland and Rwanda. His daughter, Mpho Tutu, has helped rape victims and refugees displaced by war and is currently completing a Ph.D. on the topic of forgiveness.
“Forgiving is a choice. A choice I have seen profoundly transform lives time and again,” says Archbishop Tutu, the face of forgiveness around the world. “As Nelson Mandela said when he walked free after 27 years of prison, ‘I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.’ Mpho and I share a vision to bring the transformative power of forgiveness to people everywhere and to see it spread through families, communities, countries and our whole world.”
Together the Tutus bring their hard-earned and practical insight into the process of forgiving to a global audience in the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge. The 30-day program is based on a systematic process of forgiving that the Tutus present in their new book, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Healing Our World.
Registration is open at www.ForgivenessChallenge.com. When the Challenge starts, May 4th, everyone registered will receive daily inspirational emails for the following thirty days from the Archbishop and Mpho with a link to log in to an online forgiveness community. There they will be guided through practical exercises on how to forgive, have opportunities to join discussions and share their own stories. During the Challenge there will be resources such as films, music and exclusive interviews with forgiveness heroes, experts, cultural icons and leaders including Sir Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Alanis Morissette and more.
Archbishop Tutu is an Honorary Board Member of the International Forgiveness Institute.
The Christian Science Monitor, Denver, CO — The father of a 17-year-old girl who was fatally shot at her suburban Denver high school told mourners at the girl’s memorial service that he and his wife have forgiven the killer, and he asked others to do the same.
Investigators say Karl Pierson shot Claire Davis at Arapahoe County High School on Dec. 13. She died eight days later. Pierson, 18, who was also a student at Arapahoe High, killed himself after shooting Davis.
“My wife and I forgive Karl Pierson for what he did,” Michael Davis said. “We would ask all of you here and all of you watching to forgive Karl Pierson. He didn’t know what he was doing.”
Davis said Pierson “allowed himself to become filled with anger, rage and hatred. … The fact is that Karl was so blinded by his emotions he didn’t know what he was doing.”
Here is an excerpt from The Christian Science Monitor article:
Forgiveness is often misunderstood – and some people may even condemn Mr. Davis’s remarks, believing that they excuse Mr. Pierson’s actions or are an attempt at a “quick fix” – but forgiveness “does not cast justice aside [and] when it comes to a tragedy like this, forgiveness is a long journey,” says Robert Enright, an educational psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and author of “The Forgiving Life.”
Davis “is not all of a sudden wrapping up all of his negative emotions in a little box … and all is well,” Professor Enright says. “He’s going to be going through a process of forgiveness…. Rage might come into the picture for him” after this initial stage where “psychological defenses” are kicking in, he speculates. “Forgiveness doesn’t wipe away pain; it helps us go through the pain in a healthy way to get to a healthy resolution.”
“Forgiveness simply means that the victim … on their own, irrespective of anything related to the offender, lets go of bitterness and resentment,” Enright says, and lets go of “the right to revenge,” by refusing to retaliate. Victims who forgive can still hold the offender accountable, but they are declaring their freedom – that they won’t be held hostage by the past or by anger, he says.
Read the full article “Father of slain girl forgives Colorado shooter. Is that helpful?” and watch a video from the memorial service.