WASHINGTON (May 4, 2004) -- At a time of suicide bombings, ethnic and nationalistic conflicts, and the global "war" on terrorism, the notion that forgiveness may have a role to play on the world stage might seem unlikely.
However, a new book published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) finds that forgiveness has proved to be a vital element in helping to repair relationships in a number of troubled societies.
Forgiveness has found an unlikely political footing in places such as South Africa, South Korea, Northern Ireland, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, according to case studies in the book Forgiveness in International Politics: An Alternative Road to Peace.
Political leaders, including the late King Hussein of Jordan, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Kim Dae Jung of South Korea, and others have helped heal political wounds by engaging in "transactions of forgiveness," say the three authors, William Bole, Drew Christiansen, S.J., and Robert T. Hennemeyer, who are fellows of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University.
These transactions have included public acknowledgements of political wrongs and gestures of forbearance from revenge, according to the book, which also looks at religious agents of political forgiveness such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Cardinal Cahal B. Daly of Northern Ireland, and Buddhist Primate Moha Ghosananda of Cambodia.
Such acts of forgiveness have served as an antidote to the myriad forces of un-forgiveness, which include cycles of revenge and distorted memories or "mytho-history." They have pointed the way to a "politics of forgiveness," according to the authors.
The book is an outgrowth of Woodstock's project, "Forgiveness in Conflict Resolution: Reality in Utility," carried out in cooperation with the USCCB Office of International Justice and Peace.
It applies to its analysis a definition offered by social ethicist Donald W. Shriver, Jr. He defines forgiveness in politics as "an act that joins moral truth, forbearance, empathy, and commitment to repair a fractured human relation."
The book adds, "Forgiveness is not a denial of human responsibility; rather, it rests on the moral judgment that an act was wrong…Forgiveness is compatible with justice, never with vengeance."
Through interviews as well as accounts of formal dialogues, Forgiveness in International Politics presents a broad mix of experiences and perspectives--something alluded to in the foreword by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington.
Forgiveness in International Politics "offers a realistic assessment of the role of religion in both nurturing peace and perpetuating conflict," said Cardinal McCarrick, referring to the book's three chapters on faith-based responses to deadly conflict.
Bole is a Massachusetts-based journalist who was co-author, with the late Msgr. George Higgins, of Organized Labor and the Church: Reflections of a "Labor Priest." Father Christiansen is counselor for international affairs to the USCCB and associate editor of America magazine. Hennemeyer is a retired career foreign service officer who served in several countries including The Gambia, where he was U.S. ambassador. Both he and Father Christiansen are former directors of the Office for International Justice and Peace at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
To celebrate the book's publication, the Woodstock Theological Center will feature an event by the same title in its Woodstock Forum program on Tuesday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Bunn Intercultural Center Auditorium.
Forgiveness in International Politics: An Alternative Road to Peace (ISBN 1-57455-574-X) is a 220 page paperback book that sells for $19.95. For further information or to order copies call 800-235-8722. Members of the press who would like to receive review copies can get in touch with Patrick Markey of USCCB Publishing at (202) 541-3146.