Children

The Light of Forgiveness

CandleThis might help you understand what it is you are doing when you forgive. We are in a dark room, which represents the disorder of unjust treatment toward you. As you stumble around for a match to light a candle, this effort of groping in the dark for a positive solution represents part of the struggle to forgive. As you now light the candle, the room is illumined by both the light and warmth of the candle. When you forgive, you offer warmth and light to the one who created the darkness.

You destroy the darkness in your forgiving.

Now here is what I am guessing you did not know about the light of forgiveness: That light does not just stay in that little room. It goes out from there to others and it even continues to give light across time. For example, if you shed light and warmth on a person who has bad habits, he or she might be changed by your forgiveness and pass it along to others in the future.

Now consider this: If you give this warm candle of forgiveness to your children who give it to their children, then this one little candle’s light can continue across many generations, long after you are no longer here on earth.

I am guessing that you had not thought about forgiveness in quite this way before.

Dr. Bob

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A Report on Forgiveness Education in Liberia, West Africa

Because of the efforts of Josiah Cheapoo who runs Grace Network, and others at The Crossing, the International Forgiveness Institute, and the University of Wisconsin (all in Madison, Wisconsin, USA), a bold forgiveness education initiative has begun in Monrovia, Liberia, Africa.

Rebels in Liberia were known for their gruesome practice of hacking off limbs during the country's 14-year civil conflict. Photo: Issouf Sanogo, AFP/Getty ImagesRebels in Liberia were known for their gruesome practice of hacking off limbs during the country’s 14-year civil conflict.

Liberia has emerged from a horrendous civil war in which over 250,000 people were killed. It took the efforts of some very brave women to stand in the chasm between the warlords and the innocent citizens to finally end the war.

Part of the reconstruction effort now is forgiveness education for children so that they can grow up with a sense of the inherent worth of all.?? It is hard to capture, torture, and kill someone whom you see as possessing the exact same precious inherent worth as you. Forgiveness education emphasizes this kind of thinking toward all.

To date, Mr. Cheapoo has been able to establish six “Community Centers” in which children gather to learn the life-giving principles of forgiveness. They learn the inherent worth of others by reading stories of Dr. Seuss and seeing how all people are special, unique, and irreplaceable.

Within these centers, 600 children are beginning to learn the lessons of forgiveness. We are also planning a “pen-pal” program among four 11th grade classrooms in Monrovia and one 11th grade classroom at Edgewood High School in Madison, Wisconsin.Liberian kids

We want students on each side of the globe to see a different perspective on life so that their views can be challenged, enriched, and begin to include the concept of forgiveness in their everyday lives.

We can’t wait for tomorrow because tomorrow always is filled with hope when forgiveness accompanies us on our life’s journey.

Dr. Bob

Editor’s Note: Read a related story in the Forgiveness News section of this website: “Forgiveness and New Skills in Liberia, Africa.”

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Forgiveness Education in the Czech Republic

Today I had the privilege of giving a forgiveness education workshop for faculty in a school in the Czech Republic. They have decided to implement a forgiveness curriculum for children from age 4 through about age 10.

This is not an easy endeavor for them. They have had to hire someone to translate teacher guides from English into the Czech language, and these guides are rather extensive as you can see in our online Store.

One impression I had that is quite important is this: Some of the faculty came into the workshop equating forgiveness with reconciliation. In other words, the thought was that if I forgive, I have to go back for more abuse. Seeing that this is not the case was freeing for those who misunderstood what forgiveness is.

Another impression I had was their surprise to hear that forgiveness education can boost academic performance in those students who are excessively angry. After all, if you are fuming inside, it is difficult to learn. As the resentments melt, there is more energy and focus for the academic tasks of school.

You can read a scientific paper, published in 2008 in the Journal of Research in Education, showing this boost in academic performance for a smallCzech Republic Logo group of middle school students who were at-risk for academic failure. They went from a D+ average to a C+ average the next academic year: Can School-Based Forgiveness Counseling Improve Conduct and Academic Achievement in Academically At-Risk Students?

 

We at the International Forgiveness Institute wish the administrators, faculty, and students well in this Czech school as they embark on the exciting new journey of forgiveness education.

Dr. Bob

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10 Years of Forgiveness Education in Northern Ireland

Holy Family School-BelfastThe Forgiveness Education Programme is celebrating its 10-Year Anniversary of working with children, schools and communities in Northern Ireland to make the virtue of forgiveness more understandable and accessible.

“Forgiveness is an important aspect in the emotional and moral development of any individual,” states Gary Trainor, Vice Principal at Mercy Primary School, “and if we can sow those seeds at an early age, we are increasing the chances of them bearing fruit throughout their lives.” It was with this long term goal in mind that the Forgiveness Education Programme first began to take shape..

In 2002, Dr. Robert Enright, Educational Psychologist at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, USA began to establish relationships with a couple of principals and schools in North Belfast. With the help of Anne Gallagher of Seeds of Hope, Dr. Enright was able to introduce Forgiveness Education to the first classroom of Primary 3 pupils in Ligoniel Primary School.

Ten years on, Claire Hillman, Principal at Ligoniel PS says, “At the time we started we had very few personal development resources in the primary school and no coherent programme of work. The Forgiveness (Education) Programme helped us to formulate a whole school approach to building personal qualities such as empathy, respect and trust. The programme now sits alongside the PDMU (Personal Development for Mutual Understanding) programme of work developed by the curriculum council. The work of Professor Enright has helped us develop the life skills of hundreds of children in North Belfast and is continuing to impact on their lives.”

This same perspective is echoed by Mr. Trainor from Mercy PS who says, “During our daily interactions with our pupils, as teachers we are always promoting the positive attributes and virtues we wish those in our care to portray. The Forgiveness (Education) Programme consolidated our aspirations for kindness, generosity, sharing and understanding. It gave us an extra tool to enhance our pupils’ experiences through story, discussion, art and role play. The children’s ability to communicate their feelings also improved, they began to develop a vocabulary that was both respectful of others and of themselves.” Mercy Primary School first began teaching Forgiveness Education in 2005.

Over the years, the Forgiveness Education Programme has developed and grown from that first Primary 3 classroom. Overseen locally by Padraig O’Tuama and then Becki Fulmer, in cooperation with Youth with a Mission, Peacelines, and now The Corrymeela Community since 2009, the programme has grown throughout the years from one classroom in one school to the curriculum being taught in over 100 classrooms in 20 schools across Northern Ireland.

One school in particular who has been involved with Forgiveness Education since 2004 is Holy Family Primary School. Dinah McManus, Principal, always refers to Holy Family as a “Forgiving School” because they have imbedded the virtue of forgiveness in to their school ethos.forgiveness_drawing Mrs. McManus states, “I can say with confidence and some pride that in creating a “forgiveness ethos” in Holy Family we have provided our children with a very nurturing environment which reflects the essential elements of our Mission Statement: We are a living Faith community, centred on the Gospel values of love, justice and forgiveness, within which each member of our school community is valued and respected.”

She goes on to say, “As the Forgiveness Education Programme has developed in Holy Family we, as teachers, have explored the messages within the programme and have come to appreciate their value to us in our efforts to create a strong, cohesive team. We acknowledge that we are all human and, as such, flawed. We now take time, for example on our ethos day, to remind ourselves of the power of forgiveness. To forgive another does not mean to forget what happened or to negate the other person’s responsibility for their actions. It simply means that we no longer allow another’s actions or words to cause us anger or resentment. By understanding the other person’s humanity, by forgiving without expecting anything in return, we are the ones who are healed. There is no doubt that we are, as a result, much more understanding of each other’s foibles and less inclined to find fault or to take offence at others’ comments or actions.”

The Forgiveness Education Programme has spent the past ten years dedicated to helping children, schools and communities develop a better understanding of what it means to value all people, to understand our own and others humanity and to practice respect, kindness, generosity and forgiveness. We look forward to what the next ten years have to offer.

If you would like more information on how to bring the Forgiveness Education Programme to your school in Northern Ireland please contact Becki Fulmer, Forgiveness Education Programme Coordinator, at bfulmer@corrymeela.org. If you are in the Republic of Ireland or anywhere else in the world and would like to bring Forgiveness Education to your school, please contact the Director of our International Forgiveness Institute at director@internationalforgiveness.com.

Becki Fulmer, Director
Northern Ireland Forgiveness Education Program

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Homeschooling Parents: Have You Considered Forgiveness Education?

Back to school ads. The sun setting so much earlier than in June. A flock of birds getting ready to pack their suitcases and head south. It is time to return to academic pursuits.

HomeschoolingAs homeschool parents prepare their curricula for this academic year, we at the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) want to make a suggestion. If one of your goals is strong character in your child, then have you considered a forgiveness curriculum this year? We at the IFI now have guides for homeschooling moms and dads that start at preschool (age 4) and go through grade 10 (age 15).

Each of these guides is available in our Store and we can deliver them electronically to you very quickly.

Each guide helps the parent to present a comprehensive and developmentally-appropriate forgiveness curriculum in about one hour per week for 8 to 15 weeks (depending on the age of the student). The guides suggest specific story books to accompany the curriculum so that the students first sees how story characters solve their interpersonal conflicts. After seeing this, it then is the student’s turn to think about forgiveness for him- or herself.

Many homeschooling websites emphasize the education in virtuous living for the child. For example, at home-school.com there is a family-life books section filled with themes for wholesome living. Forgiveness helps students confront their own anger and to respond with strength and respect.

At homeschool.com, there is anon-line Christian homeschooling section. Our guides come in two forms: a secular version for those parents who wish to teach virtues as moral philosophy and a Christian version for those parents who wish to teach forgiveness as a virtue in the context of Christian love.

At lovetolearn.net, we see a life-skills section. Has anyone cast their net widely regarding life-skills and considered this: Good forgiveness education helps children and adolescents learn how to cope with injustices and disappointments with patience, long-suffering, and respect. Are these not as important and perhaps even more important than learning how to manage money? After all, a balanced check-book without balanced emotions will not make for harmonious family relationships.

Our own research shows that as angry students learn to forgive, then they can increase in academic achievement. It makes sense. What student learns well when emotionally churning inside?

Jon’s Homeschool Resources, one of the largest homeschooling sites on the web, promises “neutrality” in that he is not selling anything to you. We, too, try hard not to influence your teaching of forgiveness by imposing a particular ideology on you or the student. We present forgiveness for what it is: a moral virtue in which the one unjustly treated strives to reduce resentment and to offer goodness to the one who was unfair. This definition of forgiveness is compatible with all of the monotheistic traditions as well as humanistic approaches. Forgiveness, you see, has universal meaning, with the nuances coming from you, the homeschooling parent.

Have a great fall. We hope that your student has a great life by learning to forgive.

R.E.

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VOLUNTEERS NEEDED FOR RESEARCH PROJECT

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