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Forgiving Oneself

Untitled-1As Alexandra Asseily says in the film, The Power of Forgiveness, distributed by Journey Films, “I think that if we all just remember that if we forgive ourselves, it’s a wonderful beginning to forgiveness. Because actually if we really forgive ourselves for all the wickedness we think we have inside or all the things we think are wrong with ourselves, we would then be so much more compassionate with others. And I think probably it’s our lack of compassion with ourselves that makes us so upset with others.”

Forgiving yourself is an opportunity to free you of pain and anger that has built up over time. It moves you from focusing on a past hurt into the present. You may not forget the hurtful event, but you can move on with your life. This choice to forgive yourself may not be a one-time event and may take time to do, but over time you will find yourself living without the familiar pain you are used to carrying with you. Forgiving yourself may not be easy, but the alternative is choosing to live with the pain of bitterness and resentment toward yourself.

Failure to forgive ourselves can result in:

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Buddhism and Forgiveness

My family escaped from Vietnam in a very small boat in 1979. We spent 10 months in a refugee camp in Malaysia before coming to the United States. It was said that half us boat people died at sea. The other half arrived to the shores in Southeast Asia, but even then we were still not safe. 

Anh-Huong Nguyen has been
practicing mindfulness in the
tradition of the Zen master,
Thich Nhat Hanh, for 30 years
and has led mindfulness
retreats in the United States.

There were many young girls among the boat people who were raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many individual countries tried to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, the pirates continued to inflict much suffering on us refugees. When I was staying at Pulau Bidong Island, the biggest refugee camp in Malaysia at that time, I saw so many teenage girls and young women being carried from their boats into the camp upon their arrival. They were weeping, sometimes screaming with tremors. They had been raped by sea pirates.

There was a story about a 12 year-old girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate who jumped into the ocean and drowned herself. There was another story of a father who was thrown into the ocean in the middle of the night because he was trying to stop the pirates from taking his teenage daughter away from their fishing boat. There were so many heart-breaking stories like these.

There, But For the Grace of God, Go I

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Jewish View of Forgiveness

Untitled-1"I can forgive you for killing my boys, but I can never forgive you for making our boys kill yours." (Golda Meir, in 1977, addressing Egyptian president Anwar Sadat on his peace mission to Jerusalem)

Forgiveness is always a complicated issue, particularly when it comes to war and atrocity. We all know on some level that war changes moral responsibilities and responses. But once the smoke clears, what should people be held accountable for?

Jewish text teaches us that to save a single life is to save an entire world. The flip side is that killing one person kills an entire world. But when it comes to forgiveness, can we really apply that standard to people who actually murdered what amounts to a whole world’s worth of our ancestors?

In the movie, The Power of Forgiveness, Elie Wiesel refers to a Jewish view that in order to be forgiven, one must first admit to wrongful action and apologize. The German government, in response to his request, did indeed issue a formal apology at the Knesset in Israel for its involvement in the Holocaust. At the same time, Wiesel looks at pictures of the lost children and questions whether or not he can, in fact, forgive the acts that took so many lives and destroyed so many families.

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Forgiveness is Not Forgetting

Editor: The film, The Power of Forgiveness, is a documentary about the process of forgiveness. It features interviews with renowned Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, best-selling authors Thomas Moore and Marianne Williamson and others.

Untitled-1Forgiving is not forgetting, as some have naively thought. Instead, forgiveness is about choosing to remember a hurtful past in a new way. As the narrator describes it in Journey Film’s, The Power of Forgiveness, “When one side feels injustices have never been properly addressed, the memory of that injustice is held firmly and moving on becomes difficult.”

In the United Church of Christ (UCC), we learned this lesson well when, in 1991, our national General Synod issued a formal apology to the people of Hawaii for our church’s “complicity” during the U.S. military’s 19th-century overthrow of the Hawaiian monarch. For the denomination, and for me personally, it was a learning experience about the power and pitfalls when groups of people seek forgiveness.

For generations, the UCC’s Congregational forebears enjoyed a long and complicated relationship with the people and lands of Hawaii. Sadly, they too often confused “the ways of the West with the ways of Christ,” as a past president of the UCC, the Rev. Paul Sherry, aptly described it.

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Reconciliation Between Two Koreas

Untitled-1Seoul – Faithful Korean Catholics will march and pray for peace in the demilitarized area on the border between North and South Korea. As reported to Fides, it is one of the initiatives that characterize the months of July and August 2013, which are for the Korean Church "a special time to pray for reconciliation and unity of the Korean people".

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the conclusion of the armistice between North Korea and South Korea, July 27, 1953, the "Commission for the Reconciliation of the Korean people", in the Korean Bishops' Conference, has announced special programs and activities, urging Dioceses and all the faithful to pray intensely.

In a message sent to Fides Agency, the Commission, presided by His Exc. Mgr. Peter Lee Ki-heon, Bishop of Uijeongbu, recalls that "in spite of the signed armistice, the Korean peninsula is still in a state of war, as a final peace treaty has not been signed". This is why it is still important to "pray and work for peace," and the events proposed to the faithful can be "milestones for peace on the Korean peninsula."

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Priest, Penitent and Reconciliation

As a Baby Boomer and lifetime Catholic, I sometimes feel that I have lived more than one life. With regard to world events, I was born during World War II and grew up during the Korean and Vietnamese wars, suffered through 9/11 and more recently watched as we entered into wars with Iraq and Afghanistan. 
Concerning the Catholic Church, I grew up during the years before Vatican II and, during my seminary training, experienced first-hand the transition to a Post-Vatican II liturgy and church life. Make no mistake about it – my life changed considerably during those years. I have “grown up” in more ways than one. 
Some may describe those years as turbulent, as some were; others may term them “growing years” as they certainly were. Concerning my own faith-life, I view those years as time for self-reflection, enlivening of the center of my faith, and opportunities to “blossom into” my ministry as a priest.
From my junior college and novitiate years, Vatican II was emerging with its new view of personal faith, the Church, Sacraments and the place of priests and laity within the changing landscape. In a sense, I grew along with the Church in her sense of ministry and purpose within our new view of the world as a global community and a place in need of our care and ecological attention.

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Reconciliation With Canada’s First Nations

Sr. Marie Zarowny, SSA,
a longtime advocate of
aboriginal peoples,
herself attended Indian
Residential Schools
Editor: This is a summary of a talk given By Sr. Marie Zarowny, SSA, St. Joseph’s Parish, Ottawa, Canada. The full text is available as a PDF.

Background: In the 19th century, the Canadian government believed it was responsible for educating and caring for the country's aboriginal people. It thought their best chance for success was to learn English and adopt Christianity and Canadian customs. Ideally, they would pass their adopted lifestyle on to their children, and native traditions would diminish, or be completely abolished in a few generations.
The Canadian government developed a policy called "aggressive assimilation" to be taught at church-run, government-funded industrial schools, later called residential schools. The government felt children were easier to mold than adults, and the concept of a boarding school was the best way to prepare them for life in mainstream society. Residential schools were federally run, under the Department of Indian Affairs. Attendance was mandatory. Agents were employed by the government to ensure all native children attended.

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Reconciliation, Catholicism and the Anglican Communion

Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson
In Called and Gifted for the Third Millennium the U.S. Bishops stated that: “…respect for differences… rooted in humility, understands that unity does not require uniformity. The Catholic tradition welcomes diversity as an enrichment, not a threat.” These words become reality with the official welcoming of previous members of the Anglican Communion into the Catholic Church and the institution of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. This concrete gesture of unity, taken by Pope Benedict XVI is certainly momentous. Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman was ahead of his time in feeling called to leave his Anglican Communion and become Catholic. 
Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, in his homily at his Installation Mass as the First Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter on Feb. 13, 2012, invited everyone to: “…listen to St. Anselm, the 37th Archbishop of Canterbury, perhaps the greatest theologian ever to grace England’s green and pleasant land: ‘This power was committed specially to Peter, that we might therefore be invited to unity. Christ therefore appointed him the head of the Apostles, that the Church might have one principal Vicar of Christ, to whom the different members of the Church should have recourse, if ever they should have dissentions among them. But if there were many heads in the Church, the bond of unity would be broken’” (Cat. Aur. Mt. 16:19).

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Reconciliation Centers

 Reconciliation Centers

Duke Divinity School Center for Reconciliation

Untitled-1Our Mandate
Established in 2005, the center's mission flows from the apostle Paul's affirmation in 2 Corinthians 5 that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself," and that "the message of reconciliation has been entrusted to us."

In many ways and for many reasons, the Christian community has not taken up this challenge. In conflicts and divisions ranging from brokenness in families, abandoned neighborhoods, urban violence and ethnic division in the United States to genocide in Rwanda and Sudan, the church typically has mirrored society rather than offering a witness to it. In response, the center seeks to form and strengthen transformative Christian leadership for reconciliation.

Our Mission
Rooted in a Christian vision of God's mission, the Center for Reconciliation advances God's mission of reconciliation in a divided world by cultivating new leaders, communicating wisdom and hope, and connecting in outreach to strengthen leadership.

Glencree Center for Peace & Reconciliation 

Mission: Glencree is dedicated to providing leadership and support in practical peacebuilding, and works to transform violent conflict within and between divided communities in Ireland, North and South, Britain, and elsewhere in the world. They are a nonprofit, non-governmental organization, and a registered charity in the Republic of Ireland.

History: Since 1974, Glencree has engaged in practical peace-building and reconciliation in Ireland, north and south, and more recently, internationally. We work with former combatants, community leaders, victims/survivors, politicians, faith groups, young people and women. We aim to transform violent conflict with sustainable peaceful methods by including and respecting all stakeholders.
International Fellowship of Reconciliation:

Untitled-3It is a non-governmental organization founded in 1914 in response to the horrors of war in Europe. Today IFOR counts 72 branches, groups and affiliates in 48 countries on all continents. IFOR members promote nonviolence, human rights and reconciliation through public education efforts, training programs and campaigns.

The IFOR International Secretariat in Alkmaar, Netherlands facilitates communication among IFOR members, links branches to capacity building resources, provides training in gender-sensitive nonviolence through the Women Peacemakers Program, and helps coordinate international campaigns, delegations and urgent actions. IFOR has ECOSOC status at the United Nations.

International Centre for Reconciliation (or ICR)


It is based at Coventry Cathedral, UK, and was established in 1940 after the destruction of the cathedral in the Second World War. Rather than seek revenge for the devastation caused, the center's founders vowed to promote reconciliation in areas of conflict. This began in the former Communist bloc, but has since broadened to focus on the conflict between the three major monotheistic faiths.

It is "committed to reconciliation in various situations of violent conflict, some related to religious dispute and others fuelled by different factors".


The ICR also co-ordinates the Community of the Cross of Nails, which is an international network of 150 organizations in 60 countries. All of these organizations aim for 

reconciliation, providing the ICR with a support base throughout the world. The center has "formal partnerships" with the Anglican Diocese of Kaduna in Nigeria and the Syrian Orthodox Diocese of Jerusalem.

Paulist Center for Evangelization and Reconciliation

They assist parishes and their representative groups to reach out to the unchurched, welcome back those who have drifted away and deepen the spiritual life of active Catholics through a variety of programs and gatherings.




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