Renewing Communities Through Forgiveness Education: A Prospect For Peace
Our Forgiveness Journey curriculum is founded upon the work and research of Dr Robert Enright and the International Forgiveness Institute (IFI), a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organisation based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Dr. Enright first pioneered this thinking in 1985 and created the first scientifically proven forgiveness program in the USA. Since 2002, Dr. Enright has focused almost exclusively on the development of forgiveness education curricula for children in war-torn, impoverished, and/or oppressed areas of the globe. His program in Belfast has been operating for 14 years and is now spreading across Northern Ireland. The Foundation for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Lebanon is one expression of this forgiveness education around the world. Together with IFI, we believe that forgiveness can enable a path to peace.
View Robert Enright’s ‘Forgiveness as a Path to Peace’ document from the Department of Educational Psychology University of Wisconsin-Madison and International Forgiveness Institute Madison, Wisconsin, USA.
The Forgiveness Journey Curriculum
Our Forgiveness Journey is a program for youth and young adults focused around weekly small group sessions, the curriculum last between 7 – 10 weeks depending on the age of the group. The program is usually implemented at an intragroup level, with the goal of bringing together different groups once they have completed the journey independently. This provides the opportunity for intergroup engagement between previously opposed or hostile communities, enabling the practical application of what individuals have learned during the forgiveness journey and thus creating a potential path towards social reconciliation.
Weekly modules consist of:
The Four Elements of Reconciliation – Understanding forgiveness as related to the mercy attribute of reconciliation, whilst not compromising on the importance of truth, justice and peace. At the same time however, it is necessary to realise that forgiveness does not always result in reconciliation.
What Is Forgiveness? – Discussing our own definitions of forgiveness, including what it is not.
Acknowledging Hurt and Anger – Looking at different manifestations of hurt and anger and how to begin to reframe them constructively and restoratively.
Deciding Not To Take Revenge – Continuing on from addressing hurt and anger, this module explores the consequences of revenge and what leads us to take such action. We discuss forgiveness as an alternative option.
Choosing to Recognise the Offender’s Humanity – By learning to ask questions and look at the bigger picture, we begin to understand why ‘perpetrators’ acted the way they did. This is rooted in choosing to define people not by their actions but through a shared humanity.
Freedom From Your Own Emotional Prison – Recognising the emotional hold that un-forgiveness can have over us and the role that time plays in this process. However, forgiving to soon or feeling obliged to can also be dangerous, time can be a healer and the journey should not be rushed.
Effective Communication – Learning to be aware of our own communication barriers; fostering empathy and better listening practices to help build understanding and tolerance.
Mediation – How can we effectively apply what we have learnt to mediating situations of conflict that we might find ourselves in, continuing on from effective communication.
Living From Your Best Self – This is a way of summarising all that we have learnt over the journey. In this session we discuss what our ‘best self’ might look like, and how we can strive to live from this place even when we are mistreated in order to prevent perpetuating further hurt or conflict to others or ourselves.
Peace Talk – This consists of monthly follow up group sessions to build bridges and restore relationships between communities in Lebanon. It provides practical opportunities for individuals to apply what they have learned during the Forgiveness Journey and overcome barriers bought about by decades of sectarian division in Lebanon.