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The Beginning of a New Way Forward

As Charles Dickens once wrote in his novel A Tale of Two Cities, “it was the best of times, it was the worse of times.” Could this be true for us? We are coping with a pandemic and dealing with deep divisions and issues of racial injustice which are profound. Parallels have been drawn between what is happening now and during the Civil War. So where are “the best of times?”

Crisis brings opportunities. Out of our pain can come healing. We know healing begins with truth telling and accountability and fortunately we have models from around the world which we can learn from. The most notable comes from the work of Nelson Mandel and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Although this commission had many flaws it is also a model which can teach us many things. Other models are emerging such as the work being done in Colombia with their truth commission. One of the most interesting aspects of this work is how it views different forms of the truth and works with the differing perceptions. Closer to home is the work done in Canada and their truth and reconciliation commission which provided those directly or indirectly affected by the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools system with an opportunity to share their stories and experiences.

A new way forward is about transformation. It takes time and a critical mass to get there. Unfortunately, our culture has de-valued many of its citizens and so our work begins with remembering our humanity, our inner-connectedness and what it means to be a human being. It means zero tolerance for any kind of violence. In this country what we must grapple with is the ideology of racism and violence and the denial of humanity for different groups of people. The work must be comprehensive and work on all levels of society. People need to change mind sets, communities must come together and heal, and there needs to be resources and commitment on the governmental level to change structures in society so what we are now experiencing can never happen again.

Can the worse of times become the best of times? Can we embrace this moment of crisis in a healing capacity as a country so we can go forward with a new vision of who we must be as a nation and have the capacity to demonstrate empathy and care for one another, showing that we value one another? Can we transform our structures to be inclusive instead of exclusive? What I have just described is the work of political forgiveness. In practicing forgiveness politically, we can grow in compassion and empathy and out of that can develop a new culture based on our humanness. This IS our way forward and gives us an opportunity to make profound changes in our society.

For those interested in learning more about political forgiveness please go to my website www.drborris.com. Feel free to sign up for the monthly newsletter which shares information and stories on political forgiveness when you go to the website.

Stop the Insanity!

It was truly heartbreaking to see destruction taking place on the U.S. Capitol during what was supposed to be a procedural event to confirm president-elect Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. Instead, what was demonstrated was anger and hatred incited by the president himself. Is this the America we want or are we willing to stop this insanity and begin a healing process that is so desperately needed in this country? We are seeing very clearly the healing which needs to take place within the United States. If we chose to shine a light on the darkness within society and take responsibility for our actions perhaps something good can come from this.

 To heal the political divisions in this country we need to be honest. We need to know the truth and dismantle the conspiracy theories. Why is this so important? In Timothy Snyder’s book, On Tyranny Snyder spells out important lessons we need to learn and how to preserve a fragile democracy. He describes a trajectory of how authoritarian regimes begins to form such as in creating an alternative reality, dismantling the truth, and introducing doubt in a democratic system. Therefore, truth telling becomes extremely important in the healing process of any nation and especially when people continually lie for political gain, they need to be held accountable. We need to recognize that none of this happens without a concerted effort to support an alternate reality from the very beginning. And finally, how this story is recalled in the future is going to matter a great deal for our country. We need to remember who were on the side of this alternate reality, who perpetuated lies and who encouraged the insurrection by domestic terrorist. The way out of this situation is to tell the truth, and for people to be held accountable. Truth and accountability are necessary in the long-term process of healing this nation and go hand in hand.

I often speak of forgiveness on a political level and I am sure that when people hear these words, they automatically think that to forgive means to let people off the hook including our political leaders. That is not what political forgiveness is about. On the contrary, a political forgiveness process must begin with truth telling and accountability. This is the critical first step. Without this healing is impossible.

For all of you who would like to recieve my newsletter to learn more about political forgiveness please go to my website www.drborris.com.  If you have any personal or political forgivness stories you would like to share or have thoughts or questions you may have concerning forgiveness on a personal or political level please use the contact form below. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Father Cries for Help and Gets a Life changing Surprise

There is a lot one can say about social media and for all the negatives there is also a lot of good. The other day my husband was surfing YouTube when he came across a story of a 24-year-old Tibetan who walks the streets of Majnu Ka Tila, a poor Tibetan Community in Delhi and finds people who are in desperate need of help. We both began to watch what this young man Tenzin Kunchok (also known as Ted) was doing, and before I knew it my husband was talking to Ted on what’s app! Being touched by this Tibetans compassion we found out that he wanted to help a man by the name of Karan. Karan used to do photography but due to the pandemic and rise of the smartphone industry he lost his job. He is the only breadwinner of his family of six and was living in abject poverty. He tried working in manual labor but would not always get work. The most he could earn was about 200 rupees ($2.70) a day. Because of that he was not able to buy food and the necessities for his family to survive. His four children are home because of the lockdown but once school reopens, he needs to pay school fees which he doesn’t have. If the children cannot go to school, they will never be able to get out of poverty. Because of the hard time his family was going through Karan felt there was no where to turn and feared for his family.

When Ted heard about the plight of this family, he wanted to do something about it. He went home and reached out to us. I offered my help to get this family get back on their feet. The next day Ted went back to Karan and told him he need not worry any more. The dream of making a livelihood by opening a pani-puri stall for Karan and a small shop of snacks, drinks and tobacco outside their home for his wife so she could earn some money was now becoming a reality. And his children will also be able go back to school.

Even when there is so much suffering going on in this world there are also people who care such as Ted who saw the need to help Karan. This inspiring and emotional story of one person reaching out to others who in turn could help can be found on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UMf-ZAHpW0. It is a story of what an act of kindness and compassion can do and change someone’s life forever.

Peace, Justice and Forgiveness

If I were to ask you what do we mean by peace, most people would speak of it as the absence of war. Peace is more than that. It is a state of mind, a way of being that can only happen when we are centered within ourselves. It happens when we are in touch with the essence of who we are, our spiritual essence. When people have a committed spiritual practice such as meditation and/or prayer, we see a calmness about them, a peacefulness of sorts. And when people come from a place of inner peace, that exudes outwardly in this world.

We can also ask ourselves what do we mean by justice. I am not talking about criminal justice we hear about in the courts but a higher justice. It is the kind of justice that recognizes all people are accorded basic human rights and transcends divisions of class, race, nationality and the many “isms” that can separate us. The virtue of justice requires not only that we judge others fairly but also that we judge ourselves fairly. Our sense of justice is formed by our beliefs. Just people are wise in the ways of fairness, equality and mercy. People who believe in justice question themselves, are aware of their own mistakes and so they are forgiving of others.

Working for justice is a spiritual practice. It increases our awareness of the interrelatedness of all people and the interdependence of life. Only a quest for justice can awaken our spiritual perception. A commitment to justice may foster a renewed perception of this spiritual reality – as we feel the suffering of others who we regard as strangers with our own selves. It is this kind of empathy which helps us be able to forgive.

This brings me to the work of forgiveness. Social transformation is brought about when individuals and groups are willing to be changed, even as they strive to change the world. Forgiveness, our inner healer is about change. To forgive on a transformational level we have to look within ourselves and shine a light on our darkness to be healed at a deep level. When we truly can forgive, we are given the gift of the experience of inexplicable love which changes us so as though there has been an interior renovation which has taken place and has no need for outer instruction. We have experienced the power of unconditional love and of the knowing or our spiritual connectiveness. The way we cultivate peace in our own hearts that is so powerful that we can weather any storm is through our connection with our spiritual self. The path that gets us there is through forgiveness. This is how forgiveness changes us and transforms us. The way this happens is as we shine a light on ourselves, we also recognize the light in others. It is through this lens that we view justice and know peace. This is where our greatest transformation lies.

Is the United Nations Getting Ready for the Transformational Power of Forgiveness?

During April 24-25, 2018 the United Nations convened a high-level meeting in New York on peacebuilding and sustaining peace. The purpose of the meeting was to assess efforts undertaken and opportunities to strengthen the United Nations work on peacebuilding and sustaining peace. The United Nations Headquarters welcomed heads of states to review the organization’s current work in conflict prevention and how to strengthen current operations and institutions related to peace. The High-Level Meeting was an occasion for participants from government, civil society, including women’s groups and representatives of the youth, the private sector, regional and sub-regional organizations and academia to discuss ways to support and promote sustaining peace. This was an historical milestone for advancing the United Nations’ work in the areas of conflict prevention and post-conflict peacebuilding and to set the stage for a wider agenda of renewal and reform.

This meeting attracted the highest levels of attendance seen at the United Nations this year. It brought about a greater understanding of how one views peace. Perhaps Miroslav Lajc ̌a ́k President of the United Nations General Assembly said it best:

“Peace is more than a ceasefire. It is more than a peace deal. And, it is more than the absence of war. This means that once-off operations or activities are not enough to achieve it. Instead, we need to tackle conflict at its roots. We need to look to the horizon, to see the warning signs. We need to build a culture of peace; a culture of prevention.”

The meeting focused on a discussion in four areas.

Prevention

First, the UN meeting attendees looked at prevention, especially long-term prevention. This put the focus on sustainable development, economic growth, institution building and the respect for human rights.

Coherence

The second focus area was on coherence at both national and international levels. President Miroslav Lajc ̌a ́k spoke of a few examples such as in The Gambia where sustainable peace is central to the country’s national development plan. In Malawi United Nations development and political actors came together to support the national peace architecture. And in New York the Peacebuilding Commission is building bridges across the United Nations three pillars.

National Ownership

Sustaining peace does not stand a chance unless it is driven by national actors. Examples discussed included the Philippines where national cultures and policies were complemented rather than replaced.

Inclusion

The most prominent lesson was about inclusion. There are greater results with more inclusion. A shining example is how the women in Liberia have come together. They have developed a platform and a strong united voice, and because of their commitment and determination ended a civil war and now have come together to prevent the country from sliding back into war. Another example is the Balkans where young people even years after the fighting stopped continued to work for reconciliation. And in Sri Lanka civil society designed the national reconciliation process.
So how does political forgiveness fit into all of this?

Political forgiveness is a very inclusive and comprehensive approach to peacebuilding and sustaining peace. It is a process which involves the individual, the community and changing structures to support healing and reconciliation. As mentioned earlier, understanding the root causes is very important in peacebuilding and sustaining peace. Underneath the root causes are painful emotions which are driving the conflict and if the emotional currents are not given voice, emotions especially of anger, fear and hate will become a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Political forgiveness on an individual and community level focuses on healing these emotions so the root causes can be addressed.

In September 2015, the General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide the role of public, non-profit, for-profit and voluntary sectors in global development. Goal 16 focuses on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Focusing on Goal 16 provides a wonderful opportunity for developing political forgiveness within countries. There are many facets to this and where political forgiveness can fit in. The UN can support such programs as “Schools for Forgiveness and Reconciliation” to help with the healing of political and domestic violence on an individual level. The UN can also support indigenous practices which involves community healing such as the Fambul Tok program in Sierra Leone. Lastly, to support goal 16 the UN can help governments look at structures within their countries which can support a culture of peace. This is where the transformational power of political forgiveness lies in not only healing individuals and communities but in also helping to change structures where it has the capacity to heal nations. Giving what the goals are of the United Nations and what it wants to achieve, the process of political forgiveness makes these goals achievable and is a process which fosters prevention and transforms conflict supporting peacebuilding mechanisms and sustaining peace around the world.

Please share your thoughts on : https://www.facebook.com/7-Steps-to-Forgiveness-109220899099707/, twitter @erborris or www.linkedin.com/in/dreileenborris

As always, I am interested in hearing about your experience and welcome all your comments, so please feel free to share your thoughts on this blog. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

For more information on learning how to forgive go to “Finding Forgiveness: A 7-Step Program for Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness” by Eileen R. Borris-Dunchunstang.

 

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