Forgiveness Makes Future Possible

By Bole, William | National Catholic Reporter, October 12, 2001 | Go to article overview

Forgiveness Makes Future Possible


Bole, William, National Catholic Reporter


Building trust across communal lines is only way to security

When word came of jets crashing into the twin towers, I was at my desk at home drafting a report about forgiveness and international conflict resolution, a notion that would seem precarious even in less dangerous times. Oblivious to the scale of the catastrophe and the cascading irony of my theme, I kept my head down and dug into case studies of political forgiveness around the world. That I might be onto an idea whose time had passed almost as soon as it arrived did not set in until I heard the next day from two friends and a cousin who had seen the horror in Lower Manhattan. They were not forgiving.

Is it purely imaginary to think of an international strategy that deploys forgiveness in the post-World Trade Center era? Forgiveness is by no means a traditional value in world affairs. The concept is foreign to most secular political philosophies and peripheral at best to Christian theories of the common good and a just war. Among 20th-century philosophers, the German-Jewish refugee Hanna Arendt stood out. Writing after the Holocaust, she saw forgiveness as one of two human capacities that make it possible to alter the political future. The other is the ability to enter into covenants.

It is not that forgiveness has been a no-show in the wide world. It surfaced after the grisly nightmare of apartheid in South Africa, when then-president Nelson Mandela awakened many to a reality expressed later in the title of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 1999 book, No Future Without Forgiveness. In Northern Ireland, many Catholics and Protestants have been able to imagine a different future through public acts of mutual repentance and forgiveness. In Cambodia, Buddhist primate Moha Ghosananda has struggled to release people from a paralyzing past by envisioning a future of forgiveness. He calls for selectively forgiving Khmer Rouge leaders who have repented and renounced violence after perpetrating that nation's unspeakable genocide. Many Cambodians need more time. As these illustrate, forgiveness is not necessarily a discrete transaction between two individuals. It is also a social process that blends elements such as forbearance from revenge and the will to eventually reconcile, according to a definition by the contemporary social ethicist Donald W. Shriver Jr.

Nevertheless, there is scant place for such sentiment in the reigning doctrines of statecraft. So-called "realists" normally scoff at the idea of fractious peoples reaching beyond their group interests and horizons, which is the transcendent quality of social forgiveness. Realism seeks to rationally negotiate these interests or strike directly with political-economic pressure and armed force.

The problem with that strategy today is that realism is unrealistic. Given the changing nature of conflict in the post-Cold War period, the most intractable conflicts today are rooted not in political ideologies and palpable interests, but in ethnicity, religion and other intangibles of communal identity. These clashes are highly resistant to the standard remedies of realism. Often it is hard to see such strife ending without the introduction of a radical new factor, such as forgiveness.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Forgiveness Makes Future Possible
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.