- source of conflict or compassion
History and Reconciling Adversaries: A Multi-Faith Conversation" was the theme of a panel discussion between Rabbi Dr Marc Gopin, Adjunct Professor
of Diplomacy at the Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy,
Boston, USA, Professor Mustafa Abu Sway, Professor of Islamic
Thought, Al-Quds University, Jerusalem and Dr Geiko Müller-Fahrenholz,
Professor of Theology, Bremen, Germany.
author Professor Rajmohan Gandhi, India, a grandson of the
Mahatma, introduced the panellists as "scholar-activists who belong to the faiths of the family of Abraham; faiths originating
in the spiritually charged air, soil and waters of the Middle
East." The following are extracts of what they said:
" In Jewish tradition forgiveness is part of repentance, recognition
of one's guilt, the detailed mentioning of what one has done, the asking for
forgiveness, restitution, addressing injustice."
" I have tried to do certain things towards reconciling the Jewish
and the Palestinian people. The most senior person amongst the Palestinians present
here is Mr Tawfiq Abu Ghazaleh. I want to say to you that I am sorry that it
has taken me so long to say what had to be said, write what had to be written,
to do what had to be done. I hope it is not too late. I swear to you that I will
leave no stone unturned to find the path towards the apologies that need to be
expressed between our peoples. I have a vision before my mind, that before long
our peoples will have the wisdom to find the way to apologise to each other,
to live in two homes side by side in dignity and even in companionship."
Mustafa Abu Sway:
" The notion of forgiveness is mentioned more than 140 times in the
Qur'an. In the overwhelming majority of these, forgiveness is mentioned in relationship
to God; it is He who forgives and it is He who deprives people of forgiveness
if they choose to reject His messages to them. God will forgive the human being
not once, but as many times as he or she repents and seeks forgiveness. Repentance
is a pre-requisite for forgiveness. Conditions for forgiveness to be valid include:
to stop doing the sins one is committing and, if these sins include material
damage, then restitution is a must.
Prof. Abu Sway recounted some of the many injustices which
Palestinians suffer today, such as land confiscation, house
demolition, restrictions in freedom of movement and minimal
access to water resources. "When
I thought about 'healing the past', I wish it were past for
me, for us. However, it is not past. It is something that still
continues practically every day."
Dr Müller-Fahrenholz told a story of a group of elderly German
war veterans, who were visiting Belarus to build a home for
children who were suffering from the nuclear fallout after
the Chernobyl-disaster. They had all been there 50 years before
with Hitler's army. During a dinner with their Belarus hosts
one of them stood up and said how deeply sorry he was for what
he himself and the German people had done. He broke down in
tears. An old Belarus woman got to her feet and hugged and
kissed the old man. Professor Müller-Fahrenholz drew some lessons
from this story:
. "Guilt must be named. This
one man struggles to find the right words. It is a disarming
confession, a giving up of the attempt to deny the evil deeds
of the past. It does not require the entire community, group
or nation, to speak up, but it does need a few to face the
. The Belarus woman comes and kisses him. Remember that the
German army did atrocious things to the people of Belarus.
Yet when she sees the man struggling, breaking down and weeping,
he is no longer the enemy, he becomes a fellow human being
in need of forgiveness.
. There is the lasting impact of guilt on the perpetrator's
side and there is the lasting impact of hurt on the victim's
side. The German man and the Belarus woman liberate each other
from these bondages of guilt and hurt. . The emphasis cannot
be on repairing the past, it needs to be on preparing a more
just and equitable future. It involves questions of burden
sharing and compensation.
. The grinding mills of retaliation consume new generations.
How can young people respond to the challenges of their time
if they continue to react and are made to react to their parents'
and grandparents' wounds? Forgiveness has to do with setting
the coming generations free. Forgiveness is a gift of grace
entrusted by God to all human beings irrespective of race,
gender, class, creed or religion."
from his book: Art of Forgiveness, 1997, WCC Publications:
" God will forgive the human being not once, but as many times as
he or she repents and seeks forgiveness. Repentance is a pre-requisite for forgiveness."
prohibits the reduction of guilt and shame to the individual
level. Human beings act and fail to act also as members of
families, associations, ethnic groups and nations. Forgiveness
can never replace justice. At the same time, it must be emphasized
that forgiveness goes beyond justice."