Their stories share the same elements: loss, grief, anger, intolerance, pain. They share the same ending and the same message to the reader: in order to heal thyself, you must forgive those who have caused you harm.
The Forgiveness Project aims to share modern-day stories of individuals who chose the path of understanding and forgiveness to repair lives torn apart by conscious acts of evil. Some acts of violence are wrapped in ideology. Many of the acts were state sanctioned. Others are utterly random crimes without purpose, without logic.
There is Andrew Rice, who has dedicated himself to trying to understand the underlying causes of violence after his brother, investment banker David Rice, was killed when the World Trade Centre collapsed.
Ghazi Briegeith, a Palestinian electrician living in Hebron, and Rami Elhanan, an Israeli graphic designer from Jerusalem, met through the Parents’ Circle – a group of bereaved families supporting reconciliation and peace.
The stories emerge from diverse lives: a nurse who treated innocent victims of sectarian violence and a former paramilitary in Belfast, Bishop Desmond Tutu and a former prison guard in South Africa, former rival gang members in Los Angeles, Palestinians, Isrealis, parents, siblings, children, survivors, killers.
That F-word, forgiveness, is the crux of the crucifixion at the center of Christianity. It is at the heart of Buddhist compassion; of the Torah's stories of family strife healed by fraternal empathy; of the Muslims' peace in the knowledge that Allah is gracious and they need not earn His forgiveness.
To atone means to make amends, to repair a wrong done. Biblically, it means to remove sin. In life, it means having the courage to say--and the patience to hear--those healing words: "I forgive you."