On 17th March in London the first in The Forgiveness Project’s series of thought-provoking ‘Conversations on Forgiveness’, Can Forgiveness Repair Communities? took place at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace with a screening of the award-winning documentary, ‘Beyond Forgiving’. This powerful film depicts how two South Africans – a mother whose daughter was killed and the former liberation army commander who gave the orders for her murder – were brought together post-Apartheid in an unlikely relationship.
Today the protagonists, Ginn Fourie and Letlapa Mphahlele, share platforms in South Africa and around the world to speak of reconciliation after tragedy and will be coming to the UK in May this year to talk about their journey of healing and reconciliation as they take part in the Beyond Forgiving UK Tour.
Speaking at the event were the film’s director, Imad Karam, producer Howard Grace, and Sue Hanisch who is a survivor of an IRA terrorist attack. The screening provided a perfect springboard to inspire an emotive debate amongst the 50-strong audience who went on to discuss ‘Beyond Forgiving’ as a modern-day parable and as a tool for repairing broken communities. “Hearing other stories of pain breaks the cycle and this is what we see happen in the film”, explained Marina Cantacuzino, The Forgiveness Project’s founder and director. Marina’s passionate belief in the power of the personal story and the importance of empathy led to The Forgiveness Project’s creation in 2004.
Sue, who met Ginn and Letlapa when she was in South Africa as part of the sustainable peace process, spoke of how she had huge admiration for both of them. When asked how someone can consider forgiving if there is no single individual to offer forgiveness to, she replied: “For me it was much easier that no one was named, blamed and shamed. I was struck by the feeling that if I’ve been hurt then something must have gone wrong so what needs to be done to put it right”. However, she was in no doubt that the act of forgiving is not an easy process, adding that “the choice and need to forgive requires a constant internal management programme”.
Audience member Jean Paul Samputu from Rwanda spoke about the healing power of forgiveness after members of his family were murdered in the 1994 genocide. Finally the words of Imad Karam encapsulated The Forgiveness Project’s impetus to mark its 10th anniversary with a series of events that could provide people with the opportunity to reflect on their own life experiences. He said: “The film comes from my belief that people have the ability to change and that peace is possible. I’d like to think that forgiveness can heal communities and my ultimate hope is that if people can be inspired by those in the most dire circumstances being able to forgive then many of us can forgive the little things that we can’t let go of in our daily lives.”
To find out more about the upcoming ‘Conversations on Forgiveness’ series and join in the debate around the many aspects of forgiveness visit www.theforgivenessproject.com/events. Tickets cost £11 and the monthly dialogues will all be held at St Ethelburga’s Centre in Bishopsgate.