As a freelance journalist I wrote stories between 1990-2004 about ordinary people’s struggles and triumphs: the challenges they faced with their relationships, their health, and their work. As a result I became acutely aware that far more effective than reporting on the views of experts and analysts, was being able to share the authentic voices of people who had lived through difficult experiences.
Consequently, when I founded The Forgiveness Project in 2004, I set out to tell the real stories of people whose response to being harmed was not a call for revenge but rather a quest for restoration and healing.
With the war in Iraq still a topic of fierce debate, and against a background of pay-back and retaliation, these narratives of hope seemed to tap into a deep public need for alternative and peaceful responses to violence. The stories reflect the complex, intriguing and deeply personal nature of forgiveness, occupying a space of inquiry and authenticity rather than dogma or the need to fix.
The impetus behind The Forgiveness Project charity was an exhibition I created with photographer, Brian Moody, called The F Word. In the course of collecting these stories of reconciliation and forgiveness, I noticed that forgiveness cut public opinion down the middle like a guillotine.
There are those who see forgiveness as an immensely noble and humbling response to atrocity – and then there are those who simply laugh it out of court.
The F Word tells the stories of people whose lives have been shattered by violence, tragedy and injustice and who are learning to forgive, reconcile and move on. Since its launch in 2004, the exhibition has been seen in more than 550 venues, across 14 countries, to an audience of over 70,000 people.
Everything I have learnt about this thorny and complex subject of forgiveness has come from the people who have generously shared their stories with me over the years.
My new book, The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age, brings together the personal testimonies of both survivors and perpetrators of crime and violence and asks the question whether forgiveness may have more currency than revenge in an age which seems locked into the cycle of conflict.
The book includes forewords by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, by award-winning author, Alexander McCall Smith, as well as endorsements from Jon Snow, Emma Thompson and many others.
“I have seen, in warzones across the world, how destructive our human desire for revenge can be. It leads to perpetual conflict and inflicting our own sense of loss and grief on countless others. Marina Cantacuzino’s work, in this important book and beyond, is a reminder that there is an antidote. These tales of forgiveness are the balm that can soothe our all too angry world.” – Dan Snow, historian and TV presenter