Tagged: “family”

Liberia Seeks Peace Through Forgiveness

A groundbreaking Forgiveness Education program initiated by the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI) has positively impacted the lives of more than 8,000 people in Liberia, West Africa, over the past five years. The objective of that program is to “help plant the seed of forgiveness in the hearts of people in post-war communities to spur reconciliation and national cohesion.”
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The Liberia Forgiveness Education Program (LFEP) is an initiative organized and funded by the IFI in conjunction with Church Aid Inc. (CAI), the relief and development arm of the Apostolic Pentecostal Church International. Liberia was targeted for the program in the aftermath of a horrendous 15-year civil war that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 250,000 Liberians from 1989-2004 and the displacement of more than a million others from their homes.
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“There is still a serious need to bring closure to the civil war and that means reconciliation through forgiveness,” according to Bishop Kortu K. Brown, Chairman/CEO of Church Aid and National Coordinator of the LFEP. “If Liberians will forge peace and reconciliation, they must forgive. Without forgiveness there will be no genuine reconciliation.” 
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Forgiveness Education class at Mother Tegeste Stewart Apostolic Pentecostal School in Brewerville, Monrovia, Liberia.

Bishop Brown has been working with IFI co-founder Dr. Robert Enright to implement elementary and secondary school Forgiveness Education initiatives (including for all 500 students at the Mother Tegeste Stewart Apostolic Pentecostal School in Brewerville), after-school forgiveness education clubs, and Sunday School forgiveness lessons. Since 2017, Group Forgiveness interventions also have been incorporated into the LFEP thanks to Bishop Brown’s significant role in governmental affairs.

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Last year, for example, Bishop Brown was appointed  to the Nimba County Conflict Resolution Committee by Liberian President Dr. George Manneh Weah. That Committee mediates post-civil war land disputes that have recently become violent. Bishop Brown and Dr. Enright then jointly developed a strategy for the Committee’s initial session called “Reconciliation Through Forgiveness: A Program Concept for Community Bridge-Building” that included a 3-day awareness workshop on healing and reconciliation for 150 community, religious, and governmental leaders. 
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“I suggested that approach, in all humility, because dialogue will not be fruitful if those engaging in the dialogue are still very angry about past grievances,” Dr. Enright explained. “Forgiveness is a scientifically-supported way of eliminating that anger.” 

Dr. Robert Enright (via Skype) and Bishop Kortu Brown, LFEP national coordinator, hosted a forgiveness seminar called “Renewing Communities Through Forgiveness Education” on May 13, 2022 in Brewerville, Liberia.

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Bishop Brown said he totally agrees with Dr. Enright’s assessment: “I think that interventions like the Enright Group Forgiveness process are critical to bringing peace and harmony to the communities we seek to serve in Liberia.”
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In addition to being Chairman/CEO of CAI, Bishop Brown is the General Overseer of the New Water in the Desert Apostolic Pentecostal Church in Brewerville, and president of both the Liberia Council of Churches (LLC) and the Inter-Religious Council of Liberia (IRCL). Despite dealing with thousands of local deaths due to the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and the nation-wide lockdown of schools due to COVID-19, Bishop Brown has persistently pursued forgiveness initiatives in the four-county area that encompasses the capital city of Monrovia.
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Liberia is Africa’s oldest independent nation and one of the country’s poorest. It was established by freed slaves from the United States in 1847. With 75% of its population being youth under the age of 25, about half of all Liberians live on less than two US dollars a day, according to the World Bank. In Monrovia, less than half the city’s 1.5 million people have access to working toilets, according to Liberia’s Water and Sewer Corporation.
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“Our program for peace, based on forgiveness education, is possibly one of the major answers to societal and individual unrest within communities beset by poverty and violence,” Dr. Enright added. “I believe it is the missing piece to the peace puzzle.”
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A Reflection on the International Educational Conference on Agape Love and Forgiveness, Madison, Wisconsin, July 19-20, 2022

Main Point 1: Despite cross-cultural differences, forgiveness has a common meaning across historical time and across cultures.

Main Point 2: To my knowledge, there never has been a conference on agape and forgiveness before this one.

Main Point 3: It is time for modern culture to reawaken the ancient moral virtues of agape and forgiveness for the good of individuals, families, and communities.

After over a year of detailed preparation by Jacqueline Song and the dedicated team, the agape love and forgiveness conference is now history.  That history is preserved in the videos which have captured each talk presented at the conference (the videos are available here: Agape Love and Forgiveness Conference Videos).

I have at least three take-away points as I reflect on this conference:

  1. The cultural diversity was strong, with presentations by people from Israel, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, Taiwan, and the United States. Despite the wide cultural differences, one thing was clear: The meaning of both agape and forgiveness do not change as we get on an airplane and visit cultures that are far away from one another. Instead, the core meaning of agape remains in that as a person loves in this way, it is for the other person(s) and the expression of this love can be challenging for the one who willingly offers it.  The core meaning of forgiveness remains as a person, unjustly treated by others, a) makes the free will decision to be good to those who acted unfairly, b) sees the inherent worth in those others, c) feels some compassion for them, d) willingly bears the pain on those others’ behalf, and e) offers goodness of some kind toward them.  Yes, those who forgive may not reach all five of these characteristics, but they remain the goal, that to which we want to strive if excellence in forgiveness is our end point.  Yes, there are important cultural nuances as one Islamic educator introduced forgiveness to the students with quotations from the Qu’ran and as an educator from a Christian school opened the New Testament to the students.  The rich diversity had a glue that bound all together—-the objective reality of what these two moral virtues mean across historical time and across cultures.  Objective meaning met cultural nuance at the conference.
  1. Unless I missed something in my travels with forgiveness over the past 37 years, I do not think there ever was an international conference that focused specifically on the moral virtues of agape and forgiveness. If this is true, why is it the case? What has happened within humanity so that these two key moral virtues, so prominent for example in Medieval times, would be characteristically ignored in educational contexts with children and academic contexts in university settings?  I think the transition from accepting objective truth about moral virtues (for example, justice is what it is no matter where we are in the world even when there are cultural nuances) has given way to an assumption that relativism is the new truth and so we all can choose the virtues we like and define them as we wish.  Do you see the contradiction in such a statement?  In the abandonment of objective reality that there is a truth, the new thinking is that relativism (in which there is no truth) is the new objective truth.  It is time to reintroduce communities to the moral virtues, which we all share as part of our humanity.  We need to know what these virtues are by definition and how we can give them away to others for their good, for our good, and for the good of communities.
  1. When I look across the globe at communities that have experienced conflict, that now carry the weight of the effects of decades and even centuries of conflict, I have come to the conclusion that a reawakening of the moral virtues of agape and forgiveness is vital if we are to heal from the effects of war and continued conflict with all of its mistrust and stereotyping of the human condition. Agape and forgiveness challenge us to see the personhood in everyone with whom we interact, even those who are cruel to us.  This does not mean that we cave in to injustices because the moral virtue of justice requires fairness from all.  The healing of hearts, families, communities, and nations will be better accomplished if people now can shake off the dust from agape and forgiveness, that have been so ignored in modernism, and find a new way with the old virtues.  It seems to me that agape and forgiveness, as a team, is a powerful combination for the healing of trauma for individuals and relationships.  I fear a continuation of the same old conflicts in hearts and in interactions if we do not go back and rediscover the life-giving virtues of agape love and forgiveness and bring them forward now in schools, families, houses of worship, and workplaces.

Robert

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A Reflection on the International Educational Conference on Agape Love and Forgiveness, Madison, Wisconsin, July 19-20, 2022

After over a year of detailed preparation by Jacqueline Song and the dedicated team, the agape love and forgiveness conference is now history.  That history is preserved in the videos which have captured each talk presented at the conference (the videos are available here: Agape Love and Forgiveness Conference Videos).

I have at least three take-away points as I reflect on this conference:

  1. The cultural diversity was strong, with presentations by people from Israel, Northern Ireland, the Philippines, Taiwan, and the United States. Despite the wide cultural differences, one thing was clear: The meaning of both agape and forgiveness do not change as we get on an airplane and visit cultures that are far away from one another. Instead, the core meaning of agape remains in that as a person loves in this way, it is for the other person(s) and the expression of this love can be challenging for the one who willingly offers it.  The core meaning of forgiveness remains as a person, unjustly treated by others, a) makes the free will decision to be good to those who acted unfairly, b) sees the inherent worth in those others, c) feels some compassion for them, d) willingly bears the pain on those others’ behalf, and e) offers goodness of some kind toward them.  Yes, those who forgive may not reach all five of these characteristics, but they remain the goal, that to which we want to strive if excellence in forgiveness is our end point.  Yes, there are important cultural nuances as one Islamic educator introduced forgiveness to the students with quotations from the Qu’ran and as an educator from a Christian school opened the New Testament to the students.  The rich diversity had a glue that bound all together—-the objective reality of what these two moral virtues mean across historical time and across cultures.  Objective meaning met cultural nuance at the conference.
  1. Unless I missed something in my travels with forgiveness over the past 37 years, I do not think there ever was an international conference that focused specifically on the moral virtues of agape and forgiveness. If this is true, why is it the case? What has happened within humanity so that these two key moral virtues, so prominent for example in Medieval times, would be characteristically ignored in educational contexts with children and academic contexts in university settings?  I think the transition from accepting objective truth about moral virtues (for example, justice is what it is no matter where we are in the world even when there are cultural nuances) has given way to an assumption that relativism is the new truth and so we all can choose the virtues we like and define them as we wish.  Do you see the contradiction in such a statement?  In the abandonment of objective reality that there is a truth, the new thinking is that relativism (in which there is no truth) is the new objective truth.  It is time to reintroduce communities to the moral virtues, which we all share as part of our humanity.  We need to know what these virtues are by definition and how we can give them away to others for their good, for our good, and for the good of communities.
  1. When I look across the globe at communities that have experienced conflict, that now carry the weight of the effects of decades and even centuries of conflict, I have come to the conclusion that a reawakening of the moral virtues of agape and forgiveness is vital if we are to heal from the effects of war and continued conflict with all of its mistrust and stereotyping of the human condition. Agape and forgiveness challenge us to see the personhood in everyone with whom we interact, even those who are cruel to us.  This does not mean that we cave in to injustices because the moral virtue of justice requires fairness from all.  The healing of hearts, families, communities, and nations will be better accomplished if people now can shake off the dust from agape and forgiveness, that have been so ignored in modernism, and find a new way with the old virtues.  It seems to me that agape and forgiveness, as a team, is a powerful combination for the healing of trauma for individuals and relationships.  I fear a continuation of the same old conflicts in hearts and in interactions if we do not go back and rediscover the life-giving virtues of agape love and forgiveness and bring them forward now in schools, families, houses of worship, and workplaces.

Robert

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I seem to be lost on the forgiveness path.  I try and try, but I do not think I have made much progress in forgiving my partner and this has been going on for about a year.  Should I just get off the forgiveness path regarding my forgiving him?

Before you give up, I have some questions for you:

1) Have you committed to doing no harm to your partner, even in the context of your having the opportunity to somehow hurt him?  If you answered, “Yes, I have committed to doing no harm,” then you are not lost on the forgiveness journey.  This is a big step in the process;

2) Have you tried to see his weaknesses, his confusions, his wounds that may have wounded you?  If not, perhaps you need to do some of this cognitive work, to see him in a wider perspective than only his injuries toward you;

3)  Do you think that your will is strong enough to do the work outlined in #1 and 2 above?  If so, that work could lead to your forgiving if you give this time.

So, what do you think?  Have you found your way back onto the path of forgiveness?

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How do I know, with some degree of confidence, that I am ready to reconcile with the other person?

Reconciliation is different from forgiveness.  When we reconcile, this is a process of two or more people coming together again in mutual trust.  Reconciliation is conditional on the other person’s willingness to change, if he or she was the one who acted unfairly.  Forgiveness, in contrast, can be offered unconditionally to the other as a form of respect, understanding, compassion, and even love, even if there is no reconciliation.  So, you can forgive without reconciling.

With all of this as background, here are four questions which might help you decide if you are ready to reconcile (and I am presuming that the other is the one who has hurt you):

1) Has the other shown an inner sorrow about what he or she did?  We call this remorse;

2) Has the person verbally expressed this sorrow to you.  We call this repentance;

3)  Has the person made amends for what happened (and we have to ask if he or she has done so within reason because sometimes we cannot make full amends.  For example, if someone stole $1,000 from you but truly cannot repay it all, then you cannot expect that he or she can make amends in any perfect way).  We call this recompense;

4)  If the person has shown what I call the “three R’s” of remorse, repentance, and recompense, then do you have even a little trust in your heart toward the person?  If so, then perhaps you can begin a slow reconciliation, taking small steps in rebuilding the relationship.  Your answer to these four questions may help you with your question: How do I know that I now am ready to reconcile?

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