Peace and Education Summit, Newark, New Jersey: on forgiveness

2 06 2011

The Newark Peace Education Summit was a three day conference that was held at New Jersey Performing Arts Center, beginning on Friday May 13, 2011. The main goal was that of addressing the power of nonviolence and how it’s used worldwide. The conference was captivating, and much more so because the stories were that of the speakers’ own experiences. Their tragic and sometimes horrific stories were of someone who struggled or were oppressed but still managed to excel/succeed and do so in a peaceful, nonviolent way.

I attended the Friday afternoon session on Peace in the Family. A lot of what the panel spoke about not only fell back on the topic of peace, but also on forgiveness. Even though all of the speakers were against violence, they had very different opinions when it came to the topic of forgiveness. The panel agreed that it is important to forgive, that forgiveness is necessary for the healing process, and needed in order for one to move on.

Two members of the panel went into depth about how they felt on the topic of forgiveness; their views were very different, and yet both speakers made very good points. It was hard to pick one over the other. Both speakers come from different backgrounds, and have had different experiences, and therefore it’s only natural that they have different ways of seeing things.

Somaly Mam and Shirin Ebadi were the two women who were voicing their opinions on the subject of forgiveness. Mam is an author and human rights activist. Somaly Mam is the founder of Acting for Women in Distressing Situations which helps to habilitate and house women and children in Cambodia,Vietnam, and Laos. Mam is an orphan who grew up in Cambodia, and was sold to a brothel at the age of twelve. But she later escaped and moved to France and got married. Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, human rights activist, and recipient of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. Shirin Ebadi is founder of The Association for Human Rights Advocates. The Association provides free legal service to political prisoners in Iran. For the past twenty years, she has spent her time promoting women’s rights, defending political advocates, and the defense of children.

Somaly Mam’s perspective on forgiveness was to immediately forgive those who have wronged you, not hold on to the anger, and try to work together with them to create something or even help them to become a better person. On the other hand, Shirin Ebadi believes that you should only forgive someone after the unjust situation is over, and they have admitted to their crimes against you and apologized. Otherwise, you are agreeing with the injustice, and giving that person permission to further hurt/abuse you.

When it comes to the matter of forgiveness, I know it differs from person to person, and that everyone deals with things differently. Therefore, everyone will have their own ways/processes for dealing with forgiveness. I don’t think there’s technically a wrong or right way to deal with how to forgive someone. However you choose to go about this process is up to you; but I believe it is important for us to forgive one another and not hold on to grudges or anger. This only brings about hostility which can lead to more violence.

So, how will you deal with the matter of forgiveness in you own life? Will you take Mam’s or Ebadi’s advice or will you make your own way?

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