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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