Love and Forgiveness in Governance: Learning from Experience

A two-day symposium on fostering a moral ecology that promotes justice, peace, and human progress in all realms of life was held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C on November 13 & 14th, 2014. This conference was focused on those who work in the governing professions that recognize love and forgiveness as paramount virtues, and therefore practice and embrace them in promoting the common good.

Our very own Dean Andrea Bartoli served as an interlocutor throughout the event and Professor Borislava Manojlovic served as a panelist. Panelists and attendees were persons from various backgrounds with different experiences, who added the concept and urgency of a new dynamic way of governing. This signaled the urgency for mediation in the promotion of peace. Although interstate wars have decreased, intrastate wars are on the rise due to misperceptions of cultures and religions. The unwillingness to understand the perspective of the other party, a lack of compassion and mercy towards “the enemy,” and an aversion to forgive perpetrators have been perpetual reasons for the cycle of violence

This symposium was only possible due to the collective efforts of government officials and directors of religion and human development institutions. Keynote speeches were delivered by dignitaries such as Paul Bhatti, Pakistan’s former Federal Minister for National Harmony and Minority Affairs, who publicly forgave his brother’s murderer. His brother was assassinated for speaking out against the discriminate use of anti-blasphemy laws. Nonetheless, Mr. Bhatti chose to continue the work of promoting peaceful coexistence in Pakistan. Such a decision speaks volumes to the powerful impact of choosing to forgive in the midst of situations where an individual’s life is instantly changed by the negative actions of others.

Also in attendance, was Jerry White, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), who was injured in a landmine explosion while hiking in northern Israel. He stepped on a mine causing his leg to become gangrenous, ultimately leading to it being amputated at the age of twenty. However, just like Mr. Bhatti, vengeance was not the order of the day. Instead, Mr. White sought to build something positive from his experience by helping individuals and communities affected by violent conflict.

Forgiveness was referred to as the enemy of revenge. As such, it was important to eradicate it through showing mercy and kindness to those who have wronged another person.

Other topics discussed entailed embodying love and forgiveness in society’s political processes, facilitating love and forgiveness in post conflict situations with a special look at Uganda, incorporating love and forgiveness in the justice system, and focusing on developing agents in love and forgiveness in order to secure a way forward.

Several options were discussed, with a heavy emphasis being placed on reconciliation as a catalyst for ensuring love and forgiveness in governance. Founding Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, Professor Miroslav Volf, highlighted the importance of exploring issues of reconciliation, particularly in the context of persisting enmity and interreligious dialogue.. It was evident from the various presentations, discussions, and questions posed, that through dialogue and friendship, barriers of mistrust and antipathy that divide the world can be broken. Unity among all religions and cultures fosters a culture of peace and understanding. Furthermore, it is believed that this will also prevent and bring an end to wars and conflicts, as long as a continual stream of dialogue and respect is maintained.

By: Shirley Salvi

Shirley Salvi is a first year graduate student at the Seton Hall School of Diplomacy and International Relations and a business and marketing associate of the Journal. She is a New Jersey native and a United States Army veteran with degrees in Biology from Rutgers University and French from the Defense Language Institute. 

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