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Riflessioni sul Perdono, sulla Dignità e sulla Riconciliazione

Ginn Fourie

1. I negoziati di pace, generalmente, sono incentrati sulle dimensioni politica ed economica. Quale è la Sua percezione della necessità di toccare aspetti più profondi e genuini della riconciliazione e come si può ottenere questo?

My sense is that lasting peace requires a much deeper experience and understanding of human nature than the political and economic dimensions, important though they are. We know that in areas of conflict like the Balkans, Ireland and the Middle East and our own homeland South Africa the conflict that has raged for centuries still fuels the fires of hate and revenge.

I am interested that a military veteran of WWI and WWII in the UK, who died recently at age 111 years, when asked about war responded that it is “organised murder.” Is it only politicians and statesmen who can get away with this method (organised murder) of getting what they want? I am hoping that in the twenty first century we can raise the level of consciousness of at least 66% of the population of planet earth to one where negotiation as a means of solving differences becomes the recognised method of dealing with family, community, workplace, national and international challenges.

My sense is that this will take education in the realms of emotional, physical and spiritual Intelligences, which up till recently have not been acknowledged for the role which they play in human interaction. Forgiveness and Reconciliation in our South African experience is one that is tenuous due to the nature of sustainable relationships. After our daughter was killed (Lyndi was 23 in Dec 1993, she was just finishing a civil engineering degree at the University of Cape Town, when she died in a hale of bullets from the weapon of a freedom fighter named Brian Madasi. We are conciled and work together with the Commander who ordered the attack) my husband and I struggled because we responded very differently to her death. As a result our marriage almost ended. Then I discovered a new way of communicating empathically, both with myself and my husband as well as all with whom I come in contact. This has been the turning point in my life and marriage. I wonder if it (NVC) could make that big a difference in the lives of others struggling with forgiveness issues.
The course I am referring to is Nonviolent Communication (NVC) – A Language of Compassion, offered by Marshall Rosenberg, where one learns to:

  1. make ‘non judgemental’ observations about what has happened,
  2. identify feelings, which may have been long hidden under anger and frustration. Once one is honest with yourself about what you are feeling, for instance hurt is such a vulnerable feeling that we front it with anger and frustration.
  3. Then one can find the universal need that is not being met behind the hurt feeling, which may be for being treated with respect.
  4. The next step in the process is to request (not a demand) to have that need met, in a doable way for instance hubby came home and this conversation transpired:

Me: “When you shouted, very loudly, that clearly I do not care about my own safety by leaving the garage door open. I felt hurt and puzzled because I remember closing it so that the dog would not get out. I need the respect that considers all options and negotiates power with me rather than power over me. In future would you be willing to ask me; what may have happened, rather than accuse me of not caring.
He may have responded with some sarcasm!: “ So how can I be sure not to hurt and offend you?”
Me: “I am guessing that you felt really anxious when you came home to find the garage door open, were you wanting to be sure that I am safe at all times?
Am I right?”
He: “Yes absolutely, not only for your safety but all of ours and the security of our possessions as well.”
Me: “In that case I am willing to make extra sure that the garage door is always closed, which may mean treating the remote control with added respect, I suspect I may have triggered it by throwing it into my handbag in a hurry.”

This process sounds easy, but it takes a lot of discipline and rehearsal to change our knee jerk responses to hurt and pain. I am currently workshopping for the community this way of communicating which is time consuming in that we meet every second week for three hours for 13 sessions and then continue with practise sessions thereafter. Homework is part of practising the new language. We have found it rewarding not only for those who participate, but also our entire sphere of influence.


2. Quali sono le condizioni nelle quali, al di là dell’assicurare gli interessi della parti in conflitto, può essere stabilito un processo incentrato su un senso di equità e dignità?

My sense is that there needs to be groundwork done by the mediator, establishing the principles of negotiation and getting buy-in from all parties before meeting together for the first time. Parties to the conflict need to trust that the mediator is fair and that they will be treated with dignity before the first mediated session takes place. There also needs to be a commitment to collaboration and finding the objectives for meeting rather than putting them up front before the first meeting takes place.

Once the venue is decided and the first meeting takes place; there needs to be firm holding of the agreed principles of mediation, so as to discourage the use of abusive language and any disrespect of the ‘other’. Empathic listening (described above) to each side would assist greatly in relaxing all sides of the conflict and is the most likely way of reaching a deep and lasting negotiated settlement. After which the ex-conflicting parties could learn Nonviolent Communication in order to sustain peaceful relationships.

3. Quanto il perdono è essenziale alla dimensione della riconciliazione? Alla radice della Sua cultura politica e/o della Sua fede religiosa quali sono i principi che implicano o escludono il perdono? Quali versi o detti che fanno parte del Suo personale patrimonio spirituale possono, nella sua opinione, avere un significato universale

My understanding of forgiveness tends to be eclectic, from my personal experience and from studying for a doctorate on forgiveness and reconciliation in South Africa, it leads to my conviction that forgiveness is the forerunner of reconciliation/conciliation. I have come to understand forgiveness as:

Forgiveness is a process, which involves a principled decision to give up ones justifiable right to revenge. – for to accept violation is a devaluation of the self. (may open one to further abuse..)

Emotions may still be very impassioned at the point of forgiveness, but somewhere previously experienced generosity of spirit which has proffered forgiveness to the offended, invokes empathy for the offender and makes it a cognitive choice to respond creatively. In giving up ones justifiable right to revenge, and in communicating this to the offender, empathy and acceptance are more likely to become evident and the offender’s humanity more likely to be restored (self worth restored and guilt reduced), whether he/she responds positively or immediately or not at all. In restoring another’s humanity, ones own (offended’s) humanity is also restored and with it, the potential for emotional healing; restored self worth and a sense of peace. There may always be sadness about the violation of ones human rights, the unfairness of the way one was treated, but potentially hate, fear and anger which seem to be the instigators/triggers of revenge can be assuaged.
The process may commence by the offender apologising or attempting to compensate as required in the Jewish tradition, or by punishment as in the Islamic tradition, in which case empathy may then be evoked by the offender, thus setting the process in motion. My sense is that the Christian understanding differs in that the principled decision to give up ones justifiable right to revenge, has been modelled by Jesus Christ on the cross “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” and may occur as the impetus to the process. This forgiveness consciously works towards reconciliation in the case of former friendship, and conciliation where the offender was previously unknown or not a friend.
Reconciliation/conciliation depend on the response of the offender to forgiveness, and then again on whether the offended wishes to deepen the connection and communication. Where abuse is a factor the offended may forgive and leave the relationship with a clear conscience because reconciliation to an habitual offender would be dangerous.
My present sense about the legal aspect of dealing with offenders, is that the law remain a guardian and protector of society and should not be confused with personal forgiveness, although the two may certainly work together. However in bringing justice to bear it should be in restorative ways, through paying back to the community a debt, rather than by punitive measures which tend to dehumanise further. This may be difficult and costly, but may be the only way to model the protection of human rights – rather than perpetuate human rights violation.
In October 2002 I met Letlapa Mphahlele, the former Commander of Apla (Azanian peoples liberation army), the military wing of the PAC (Pan Africanist Congress). He invited me to his home-coming ceremony in Seleteng (Limpopo Province) and asked me to speak at the occasion. I apologised to his people for the shame and humiliation which my ancestors had brought on them through slavery, colonialism and apartheid. I made the link between shame, humiliation and violence and that they can teach us to dance to the rhythm of Africa by sharing what we are feeling, particularly fear of each other, anger or sadness. Vulnerable feelings when expressed to each other have the potential to establish lasting bonds and may overcome the violence and corruption which oppresses us all at the moment. Domination and war have done nothing for us in the short or long term.. Letlapa responded by thanking me for coming to his ceremony which he saw as an act of courage and a demonstration that the war is over. However he intoned that conciliation does not happen in a day and that the poverty and landlessness of his people needs to be corrected before conciliation can be thought accomplished.
As a result of this meeting we are committed to working together to further conciliation in South Africa and the world.

4. Il perdono richiede qualche forma di pentimento da parte di coloro a cui il perdono viene offerto? Il perdono ha condizioni o è senza condizioni?

I think that forgiveness is universal to humankind. Christianity does not have an exclusive claim to forgiveness, all religions and ideologies support the idea of forgiveness, however what forgiveness means and how to implement it often remains illusive.
As a Christian I personally believe that forgiveness is offered unconditionally, in the hope that as the perpetrator/offender experiences a reduction in guilt and a restoration of humanity (feeling good about self as a human being) s/he will respond with remorse for the hurt caused to the survivor. Our mutual humanity depends on being treated with respect and dignity.
My understanding is that Judaism requires ‘tushuva’ which demonstrates remorse and a return to God, before forgiveness is appropriate. Then compensation must be made to the offended for the loss sustained.

Whereas, with Islam punishment must be administered before forgiveness is appropriate. If this is an accurate understanding it may explain why peace in the Middle East remains illusive.

Furthermore, Buddhism concentrates on reducing the strong emotions of rage, spite, hated and malice to peaceful ones of patience and tolerance, then forgiveness comes naturally. An enviable state which I long to make my own and find it very compatible with my faith.

I feel very excited and am looking forward to participating in the Forum in Rome in April, I am sure that it will be informative and beneficial to all concerned.

Il sito della Fondazione Pax Humana è in arrivo!