Today’s Zaman (an English-language daily newspaper in Istanbul, Turkey) – A United Nations peace conference held in Geneva, Switzerland, on United Nations Day (Oct. 24), developed “five tools as the modus operandi of peace building” including justice and forgiveness.
Although Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen was unable to be at the conference with the more than 800 participants from 50 countries who attended, he sent a message that was read by German historian and author Jochen Thies. In his message, Gülen emphasized the importance of investing in human beings while stating that “building peace means building peace-loving men and women.”
Professor Thomas Michel of Georgetown University (Washington, DC), was one of the conference speakers who underlined 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.
After day-long intensive workgroup meetings, the conference suggested 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.
Just three weeks prior to the Geneva conference, University of Wisconsin educational psychology professor 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). Professor Enright, co-founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, served on an international “Expert Group” that is developing intervention models aimed at ending gender-based violence around the world.
Globally, according to the UNFPA, 1 in 3 women face gender-based violence, usually at the hands of someone she knows. Furthermore, 1 in 4 women, including adolescent girls, have been subjected to intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence. Those risks of violence are compounded in countries experiencing conflict and are negatively impacting broader peace initiatives in those countries.
Dr. Enright said he is hopeful that the forgiveness programs he has been operating in Northern Ireland for the past 12 years; in Liberia, West Africa for 3 years; and the one he 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 Forgiveness Education 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.”