Just three weeks after International Forgiveness Institute co-founder Dr. Robert Enright laid the foundation for “forgiveness as a peace tool” at a 2-day work session hosted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in New York City, a United Nations Peace Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, has labeled “justice and forgiveness” as essential tools in peace-building.
Dr. Enright, a University of Wisconsin educational psychology professor, was named to serve on an international “Expert Group” that met Sept. 29-30 to begin developing intervention models aimed at ending gender-based violence around the world. Gender-based violence is compounded in countries experiencing conflict and is negatively impacting broader peace initiatives in those countries.
The United Nations Peace Conference in Geneva, held on United Nations Day (Oct. 24), developed “five tools as the modus operandi of peace building: interfaith dialogue, justice and forgiveness, education (especially to foster intercultural understanding), forming institutions to promote peace, and for peace speech to replace the hate speech that is prevalent, especially in social media.”
One of the Geneva conference speakers, Professor Thomas Michel of Georgetown University (Washington, DC), emphasized the importance of justice and forgiveness as tools to achieve peace. He said one is not possible without the other and that without serving justice no forgiveness should be expected from the victims of oppressors. According to Michel, the way to make people forgive their oppressors is to increase dialogue among groups with animosity against each other.
Although Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen was unable to be at the Geneva conference that was attended by more than 800 participants from 50 countries, he sent a message that was read by German historian and author Jochen Thies. In his message, Gulen underlined the importance of investing in human beings while stating that “building peace means building peace-loving men and women.”
“That is exactly what our Forgiveness Education Program is designed to accomplish,” according to Dr. Enright. ”It is our hope that the same forgiveness program we have been operating in Northern Ireland for the past 12 years; in Liberia, West Africa for 3 years; and the one we just recently started in Israel-Palestine after 3 years of groundwork there, will soon be employed around the world to address violence and peace issues.”
“If students are introduced at age 4 to the inherent (built-in) worth of all people, which we do in our programs, would the amount of violence go down, perhaps dramatically, and would that increase the likelihood of peace?” Dr. Enright asks. “The world needs forgiveness education.”