Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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Hilary's Blog - 26 Mar 2009

How to forgive

Retribution is in the air. Everyone wants a go at Fred the Shred. But a new book asks us instead to consider the power of forgiveness. I can't decide if this makes it brilliantly timely, or badly out-of-step with the times, but whatever it is, it is important.

Michael Henderson's No Enemy To Conquer, Forgiveness in an Unforgiving World (Baylor University Press) isn't a wish-washy plea for everyone to be nice, but a long look at forgiveness as a hard and difficult tool which brave people have used both for their own healing, and to further national and international peace.

The book is full of stories of people who have found the strength to forgive. Many are already well-known. That does not make them less powerful. Having just returned from a trip to Auschwitz -- of which more later -- I was deeply moved by survivor Eva Mozes Kor's story of standing by the gas chambers fifty years later with former Nazi doctor Hans Munch having written him a letter of forgiveness. "I was no longer a victim of my tragic past. I was finally free."

Also meaningful to me were Desmond Tutu's reflections on how to deal with "the sordid past'. Having lived in South Africa under apartheid, I know exactly how much there was for people there to forgive, and how difficult and admirable -- and, to a degree, effective -- was the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Other people will be moved by stories from Gaza and Northern Ireland and other parts. This book is packed with them. It would be hard for anyone to read it and not to see just how powerful forgiveness can be. It reminds us of the best in human nature when our noses are being rubbed into the worst.

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