The Forgiveness Factor Book Review


This somewhat lengthy review of the book The Forgiveness Factor:

Stories of Hope in a World of Conflict may interest some AVPers.

Aloha to all of you.


This comes from a review in a newsletter published by Foundation for Global

Community that I think is quite important and am sharing it here...


The Forgiveness Factor: Stories of Hope in a World of Conflict

by Michael Henderson


Book Review by Mac Lawrence


My family was involved with Moral Re-Armament when I was young-young and too

preoccupied with growing up to focus on a movement dedicated to personal

change and reconciliation. But MRA made an impact on me, and I've often

wondered what happened to it, and what if any, impact it had on the world.


The book The Forgiveness Factor: Stories of Hope in a World of Conflict

fills in these spaces. It contains remarkable stories of people moving from

a relationship based on conflict and hatred to one of acceptance and

forgiveness, and how such a change can also transform those who have been the

object of the hatred. In the dramas in the book, MRA was a catalyst: either

the person underwent the transforming change at a conference at the MRA

center in Caux, Switzerland, or was powerfully influenced by someone who had

undergone such a life-changing experience and demonstrated it by living

according to MRA's spiritual guidelines. But MRA is not the book's focus: the

power of forgiveness is.


Rajmohan Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas Gandhi-the Mahatma-writes in the book's

foreword: "Sometimes history, selective history, gets us by the throat,

threatening revenge and breathing new life into a chain of oppression and

retaliation. Here, however, in this book on the possibility of and power of

forgiveness, courtesy of Michael Henderson, we have a selection of facts from

the recent past that do the exact opposite: They kindle the hope that we may

yet catch history's hand and guide it along calmer, safer pathways."


Gandhi adds: "I marvel at the array of Henderson's evidence of reconciliation

between bitterly divided groups. What is the invisible spark that, seemingly

sudden at times, unites humans who had vowed death and humiliation to each

other? Is it composed of forgiveness offered or asked? Of pity for survivors?

Of a willingness to pause and reflect? Of an unexpected glimpse of the enemy

in oneself, or of oneself in the enemy? Of an abrupt awareness that greatness

was designed for us? Of an unexpected recollection of a long-forgotten mercy

we had not merited? Is it a mystery linked to the Grace of God?"


Henderson begins with the story of Caux itself-a hotel used to house 1200

refugees during World War II that was transformed by the Swiss into a neutral

setting where former enemies could meet and be reconciled. In its first year,

1946, 3000 people from 34 countries took part in conferences there.


Particularly dramatic were the meetings dealing with the relationship between

France and Germany which witnessed such marvels as the first large German

delegation being welcomed by a French chorus singing in German.


Throughout the book, Henderson focuses on personal change as the basis for

reconciliation. In one dramatic example after another, he shows that when an

individual is able to switch his or her attitude toward the enemy, the entire

atmosphere of hostility can change. He cites the case of one woman, an active

French resistance figure whose son had been tortured by the Gestapo.She did

not know Germans would be at the conference she was attending and, struggling

with that reality, underwent what she called "a miracle." In an address from

the platform the next day, she said: "I have so hated Germany that I wanted

to see her erased from the map of Europe. But I have seen here that my hatred

is wrong. I am sorry and I wish to ask the forgiveness of all Germans



A German woman responded: "I shall take these words to the women of Germany.

Many tears of joy have come to me at Caux. I do not think from 1934 to 1947 I

have ever laughed with such a full and open heart as in the last 18 days,

here among people who have every right to hate us Germans."


A poignant story Henderson tells is that of Prisoner 8231, a member of the

Norwegian resistance who found himself after the war guarding the very

Gestapo man who had tortured him."I was confronted," the former prisoner

said, "with a problem: how to relate to him? I thought for a long time and

at last reached the conclusion that I had to forgive him."


These are remarkable stories, and the book is filled with them. Not only do

they give hope that humankind can move forward but they give

behind-the-scenes insights into history, including how certain wars came to

an end and how a great deal of blood-shed and misery was avoided in countries

around the world. The book also includes a section called "Unselfish

Capitalism?" which includes chapters titled: "New aims for management and

labor," "Initiatives from below-saving an industry," and "Initiatives from

the top-leveling the corporate playing field."


In the book's preface, Henderson writes: "Is forgiveness-both asking and

offering- a realistic philosophy between nations and individuals? Given the

track record of this century, the cruelty and senseless killing, the

holocaust and genocide, one's skepticism about its possibility and efficacy

is justified. The stories in this book, however, show that forgiveness, like

hatred, knows no national boundaries and has the power to break the vicious

cycles of hatred and revenge."


"You do not diminish yourself by recognizing your mistakes, rather you raise

your prestige. For what is most serious about mistakes is not that you make

mistakes but that you continue in them. Let us have the humility to recognize

our mistakes and correct them."

- King Mohammed V of Morocco



"Changing oneself is an essential, inescapable first step in changing

anything or anyone else. When we learn under the leading of the inner voice

to share from our experience of dealing with wrongs within us, then time and

again it leads to a similar quality of change in others. With this key

experience, so many social and international issues have been untangled-not

overnight, but as men and women remain undeterred and faithful to the inner

direction, the speed is often surprising."

- Steven Sibare of Zimbabwe,

speaking of the course he teaches on turning competition into cooperation,

criticism into caring, opposition into opportunity, and enemies into friends.


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