The Forgiveness Project’s purpose is to provide a space of inquiry and exploration by collecting and sharing real stories from victim/survivors and perpetrators; nevertheless over the years people have asked for lessons and learning in how to forgive. While the stories provide hope and inspiration, and help to shift perspective or open a door to recovery, they don’t seek to provide a step-by step-process.
So it felt absolutely the right time to invite Azim Khamisa to come to England to deliver his internationally renowned ‘Journey of Forgiveness’ workshop. Azim is supremely qualified to do this because he has experienced forgiveness first-hand and on many levels, ever since his only son Tariq, aged 20, was murdered by 14-year-old gang member Tony Hicks in San Diego in 1995.
Ever since he has worked with Tony’s grandfather to bring a positive and peaceful message to young people vulnerable to gun and gang violence.
Azim is convinced that forgiveness is the only way to open your heart, to create a happy life and build peaceful communities. He opens the two-day workshop by informing participants, “I’m giving you tools to get rid of resentment and guilt” and then invites everyone to ‘dig deep’.
The highest impediment to forgiveness is judgement” he says. This doesn’t mean he believes in condoning or excusing an offence but rather that as a Sufi Muslim there is no escaping wrongdoing. In other words, those who have been harmed don’t need to become obsessed with justice, because justice may never fully right the wrong, and seldom – except in the case of restorative justice – heal. Harbouring resentment over a long time is self-abuse, he says.
The work Azim does with the Tariq Khamisa Foundation to ‘save’ violent young people in America is all about transformation, or what he describes as change at a soulular level — a term he coined to express deep, sustainable inner change. He explains that money and status were useless when his son died and it was his spiritual life which saved him. He urges everyone to become spiritually resilient.
Some of the stages taught may not fit with everyone but this is not a dogmatic approach – it simply explores basic steps to forgiveness such as, ‘acknowledging you have been wronged’, ‘giving up all resulting resentment’, ‘taking responsibility for your actions’ and ‘asking forgiveness from the people you’ve hurt’ (self-forgiveness). What is so compelling about Azim’s work is that he is so flexible and open to everyone’s journey. “There is nothing quite so painful as a broken heart but a broken heart is an open heart” he says, “and if you can live with an open heart then gently transformation will begin to happen”. This is clearly true of his own healing journey but also something which resonates with every person in the room.
We hope that Azim will come to the UK in 2016 to deliver the workshop again so if you are interested, do sign up to our newsletter to be kept updated. Please see Azim’s website for workshops elsewhere in the world.
If you’d like more information on Azim’s journey see his book: Azim’s Bardo: A Father’s Journey from Murder to Forgiveness