On Tuesday 3rd July we held our third annual lecture on the subject “The Line Dividing Good and Evil” to a packed audience at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Dr Gwen Adshead, forensic psychiatrist at Broadmoor High Security Hospital, delivered the lecture, supported on stage by three contributors who shared some of their own personal narratives. These were: Marian Partington whose sister was murdered by Fred and Rosemary West; Erwin James, the Guardian columnist and former prisoner who has served a life sentence for murder; and Kemal Pervanic, survivor of the notorious Ormaska concentration camp in Bosnia.
When an article appeared in the Evening Standard about Dr Adshead the day before the lecture, we were suddenly inundated by requests from people desperate to attend, many of whom had never heard of The Forgiveness Project. It meant, unfortunately, that we had to turn many disappointed people away. However, we have filmed the entire event and will posting it on line during the next few weeks.
Gwen Adshead spoke about the recognition of the “dark matter” in every human heart, about the genesis of evil and the creation of monster stories. Marian Partington articulated her journey of healing through the exploration of language, while Erwin James followed on from Marian explaining his own sense of disquiet standing in the shadow of her immense sorrow. He explained how he “owed it” to his victims to make something of his life. Kemal described the shock and betrayal you feel when your former teachers and classmates become your enemy: for him forgiveness has been the only way to reconcile with the trauma.
The inspiration for the lecture came from a quote by the Russian author and prisoner of conscience, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, which I discovered a few months after founding The Forgiveness Project in 2004. I love this quote because it fits perfectly with the ethos and philosophy of everything we’re trying to do.
“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human-being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”