Forgiveness Seen Helping Nations Improve Relations: Author Says It Goes beyond Personal

By Reaves, Michele | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 7, 1999 | Go to article overview

Forgiveness Seen Helping Nations Improve Relations: Author Says It Goes beyond Personal


Reaves, Michele, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


More than half a century after the first bombshell exploded on Wheeler Field eight miles from Pearl Harbor, Americans still mourn the loss of 2,403 persons who died 58 years ago today.

However, history such as what happened Dec. 7, 1941, can be "healed" through forgiveness and repentance, says a Portland, Ore., author whose second book on a forgiveness theme is due out this month.

Michael Henderson's first book, "The Forgiveness Factor," pub lished in 1996, examines case histories of forgiveness, mostly concerning World War II. This year's book, "Forgiveness: Breaking the Chain of Hate," focuses on how groups, races and nations can release their hatred for their enemies.

"For a long time, people dismissed forgiveness as personal or religious," said the British-born newspaper columnist and radio personality. "It is thought of as soft, but people now realize it has ramifications for national and international policies."

He mentions an international group of Christians visiting Jerusalem earlier this year on the 900th anniversary of the city's sacking during the Crusades. Their public apologies - including one from a descendant of one of the Crusader knights - came at the end of a three-year Reconciliation Walk beginning in Cologne, the German city where the Crusades began. Many Muslim observers were especially touched.

He mentions efforts by Russian President Boris Yeltsin to move his country toward repentance and reconciliation, as well as the desire of both sides in the Catholic-Protestant conflict in Northern Ireland to end their warfare.

President Clinton made forgiveness a theme during his November visit to Kosovo. There, he urged the ethnic Albanians to consider forgiving their former Serbian oppressors.

But forgiveness is not always a given. When Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama visited this country in 1995, he was not initially inclined to say something about Pearl Harbor.

After U.S. pressure, the prime minister produced "words of regret," but not guilt over the bombing. The Japanese have likewise found it difficult to apologize over another atrocity, the "Rape of Nanking," which the Japanese committed against the Chinese in 1937. An estimated 300,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians died.

"The spectacle of one nation demanding an apology from another, I find ridiculous," Mr. Henderson said. "It sometimes reflects a lack of honesty about our own nation's shortcomings."

Mr. Henderson said that only in this decade have Americans apologized for interning Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Mr. Murayama's words of regret were not the first attempt by Japanese officials to address this issue. Mr. Henderson recalls a Japanese delegation entering the floor of the House of Representatives in 1950.

"Diet member Tokutaro Kitamura, speaking from the rostrum, apologized for `the tragic trouble that we have caused to the people of the United States,' " Mr. Henderson said.

The United States exacted revenge for Pearl Harbor four years later when it dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

Hiroshima officials took a step toward forgiveness. The city inscribed "Sleep in peace. We will never make the same mistake again." on a memorial in the center of town.

In "Forgiveness: Breaking the Chain of Hate," Mr. Henderson spotlights those who were able to forgive their adversaries. …

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