Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Forgiveness in Politics

On January 9, 2006, William Bole, a fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, gave a talk titled “Blessed are the Peacemakers: Forgiveness in Politics as a Road to Peace.” It was part of the Year of Prayer lecture series sponsored by the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. Bole drew from Woodstock’s 2004 book, Forgiveness in International Politics: An Alternative Road to Peace (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops), which he co-authored with Robert Hennemeyer and Drew Christiansen, S.J. Here are some of his remarks:
We reached a rough consensus -- that there is a politics of forgiveness. There’s a politics of forgiveness that can contribute to social healing and international conflict resolution. But I don’t think anyone ever lost sight of the politics in all this. And I heard faint echoes of John F. Kennedy telling his staff: “Forgive your enemies, but don’t forget their names.”

I’d like to make a few basic points in these remarks here. The first is that, admittedly, the whole notion of forgiveness can seem counter-intuitive in the age of global terrorism and extreme ethnic conflict. It’s an unlikely topic, but it’s real – and that’s the second point. Forgiveness has shown itself to be a political reality, and we think a strategically useful concept -- useful in helping to repair relationships that have been long sundered in a number of fractious societies. And, my third point is that forgiveness in politics is in politics, which means that it’s subject to the limitations and liabilities of any political project. And I’ll close with some fleeting remarks about why forgiveness is a fitting framework for dealing with some of today’s most intractable conflicts, entangled as they are in the intangibles of group identity.

You can read more here.