New Desmond Tutu film – “The Forgiven” – Addresses Segregation, Apartheid, Forgiveness

Screen Africa, Johannesburg, South Africa – Unflinchingly accurate in its depiction of South Africa’s tumultuous  political history, The Forgiven is a powerful film that one critic described as “the ultimate testament to the power of forgiveness and finding common ground in our humanity.”

While it has been two decades since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission focused international attention on South Africa’s violent history of racial segregation, director Roland Joffé’s new film returns to that time to grapple with the terrible truths of apartheid and its legacy.

Based on Michael Ashton’s play The Archbishop and the AntichristThe Forgiven is a fictionalized account of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s efforts as the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in an attempt to heal and unite South Africa. It was released worldwide in October.

Explaining the reasoning behind the film, Joffé says: “This is a subject that’s both social and political but also rather personal, because let’s be honest, we’ve all done things in our lives that we need forgiveness for, that we haven’t come to terms with. We’re all prisoners of our history, whether it’s social, cultural or family.”

The drama follows Archbishop Desmond Tutu, masterfully portrayed by Forest Whitaker, and his struggle – morally and intellectually –with brutal murderer and member of a former apartheid-era hit squad Piet Blomfeld (Eric Bana), over redemption and forgiveness. The film was shot completely in and around Cape Town, including at one of the world’s most dangerous prison facilities, Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison.


“The film is a tribute to the remarkable and healing power of forgiveness and the outstanding compassion and courage of those who offered love and forgiveness as an antidote to hate and inhumanity.”
Desmond Tutu


The Archbishop himself has given the project his blessing, saying: “This timely, compelling and intelligent film, movingly, and above all humanely, captures what it felt like to be working with those selfless members of the TRC who strove, often against the odds, to help bring both truth and reconciliation to the ordinary people of South Africa.  This is not only a film about a certain time and place, it is a pean of hope to humanity at large.” 

The Eight Principles Underlying Forgiveness Education

We considered eight principles when devising forgiveness education:

  1. The learning should take place in a non-stressful environment, such as a family setting or a classroom.
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  2. What is discussed initially does not center personally on the child but instead on story characters. The child sees first that story characters have conflicts. Next, the child sees that there are many ways to solve and deal with conflicts and that forgiveness is one of those ways. Next, the child sees that forgiveness does not directly solve a situation of injustice. Instead, forgiveness is one way of dealing with the consequences of injustice.
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  3. Once a child understands what forgiveness is and what it is not and understands the nature of interpersonal conflict (when one person acts badly, others can be hurt), he or she is ready to explore the pathway of forgiveness, the “how to” of forgiveness. This, again, is best taught by having the child first see others (story characters) go through forgiveness as a way to model it.
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  4. Then it is time for a child to start trying to forgive someone for a real offense against the child. This is best accomplished initially by choosing a small offense (e.g., being pushed on the playground) and only later building up to more serious injustices.
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  5. As children learn about forgiveness, the instruction should be developmental.
    Forgiveness students at Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

    By this we mean that at first the child can see a story character forgiving one other story character for one offense. Then the child should begin to reason that if a story character can forgive one person for one offense, maybe that story character can forgive that same other person again and again, learning to generalize forgiveness across situations.
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  6. Next in the developmental sequence, the child learns that the generalization can occur across divergent other people so that he or she can forgive a variety of people for a variety of offenses.
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  7. Then in adolescence comes the more mature idea that “I can be a
    Students at Mar Elias Educational Institutions in Ibillin, Galilee (Israel) learn about forgiveness.

    forgiving person.” In other words, forgiveness is not just something that one does in a behavioral sense, but instead forgiveness can go beyond actions to an internalized response that is part of the self, part of one’s identity as a person. It is here that the desire to forgive becomes more stable and enthusiasm for this moral virtue begins to develop. It is what Aristotle called “the love of the virtues.”
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  8. Finally, the developmental pathway leads to a motivation of giving forgiveness away to other people in the community. The adolescent, as part of a class assignment, might, for example, consider talking with counselors or families to introduce them to what forgiveness is, how people forgive, and the benefits for self and others when forgiveness is properly understood and practiced.

Robert


Enright, Robert D.; Fitzgibbons, Richard P.. Forgiveness Therapy (Kindle Locations 4377-4399). American Psychological Association (APA). Kindle Edition.

How can you create a forgiving community for oppressed people? Don’t you first have to validate the injustices by solving them? Forgiveness without such validity seems weak.

One can validate oppression by acknowledging it and calling it what it is: unfair.  One can own one’s legitimate anger over the oppression.  Yet, if one waits to actually solve the injustice before forgiving, then those who are oppressing win twice: once with original and ongoing oppression and second by having the oppressed people living under a constant state of unhealthy anger or resentment. That resentment, over time, might be so strong as to destroy individuals and families within that oppressed community.  Forgiveness without a correction of the injustice at the very least solves that one problem of destructive resentment.

Learn more at Healing Hearts, Building Peace.

Is there such a thing as Political Forgiveness, for example, to handle border disputes?

Yes, and this is sometimes called group forgiveness.  Group forgiveness is different from one person forgiving another.  In the latter, a person can change feeling, thoughts, and behaviors toward an offending other.  Groups do not have feeling and thoughts (individuals within groups have the feeling and thoughts).  So, only actions are part of group forgiveness such as proclamations of forgiveness or establishing norms within the group to try to be kind toward the other group as justice is pursued.

Here is the abstract of a journal article on this issue:

Enright, R.D., Lee, Y.R., Hirshberg, M.J., Litts, B.K., Schirmer, E.B., Irwin, A.J., Klatt, J., Hunt, J., & Song, J.Y. (2016).  Examining group forgiveness: Conceptual and empirical issues.  Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 22, 153-162.

A New Film About Archbishop Desmond Tutu –THE FORGIVEN

ScreenAfrica, Johannesburg, South Africa – Two decades after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission addressed South Africa’s violent history of racial segregation, a new film returns to that time to grapple with the terrible truths of apartheid and its legacy.

The Forgiven, a film by award-winning director Roland Joffé, is a fictionalised account of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s efforts as the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to confront the atrocities of apartheid in an attempt to heal and unite South Africa.

“This is a subject that’s both social and political but also rather personal, because let’s be honest, we’ve all done things in our lives that we need forgiveness for, that we haven’t come to terms with,” Joffe says of the film. “We’re all prisoners of our history, whether it’s social, cultural or family.”

The drama follows Archbishop Tutu and his struggle – morally and intellectually – with a brutal murderer and member of a former apartheid-era hit squad over redemption and forgiveness.

According to the producers, the story is poignant and timely. “It reminds us of Archbishop Tutu’s gift of forgiveness and the healing it brings, and we are honoured to tell this story.”


“The film is a tribute to the remarkable and healing power of forgiveness and the outstanding compassion and courage of those who offered love and forgiveness as an antidote to hate and inhumanity.”
– Archbishop Desmond Tutu


Archbishop Tutu was honored with the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his opposition to South Africa’s brutal apartheid regime. His willingness to forgive those who tortured him, his nonviolent path to liberation, and his ability to articulate the suffering and expectations of South Africa’s oppressed masses made him a living symbol in the struggle for liberation.

The film will be released worldwide on Oct. 5, 2018. You can watch the film trailer at The Forgiven.

Archbishop Tutu, an Honorary Member of the International Forgiveness Institute Board of Directors, is the author of several books including:


 

Humility, Courage, and Forgiveness

Forgiveness is full of paradoxes.  Consider three examples of these paradoxes:

1) As one is kind to those who are not kind to the person, then the forgiver experiences emotional relief;

2) Rather than seeking justice as part of forgiveness, the person exercises the virtue of mercy and this can be part of the healing process between two people;

3) When emotionally hurting from the injustice the focus is not on the self, but on the other and this promotes healing in the forgiver.

Another paradox is that as forgiveness fosters humility, the lowliness of humility fosters the strength of courage.  As one forgives, one begins to practice humility which means lowering oneself from a potential power position to see the self and the other as at least somewhat similar in these: We are both imperfect; we both have hurt others; we are both human and therefore each of us possesses inherent worth.  The humility can help one stand firm in courage to persevere in the forgiveness process with all of its paradoxes.  After all, if the forgiver sees the inherent worth in both, then there is motivation to acknowledge this worth and see the process of forgiveness through to the end, which requires courage.  Courage is not the absence of fear, but moving forward even in fear.

Humility and courage each can be misunderstood.  There are two extremes to both humility and courage.  The first extreme for humility is to have a very lowly—too lowly—view of the self so that people think they deserve to be humiliated, even constantly humiliated.  The other extreme of humility is, in trying to see one’s own bounds or limitations, to distort these at too high a level.  The quest for humility, in this second case of extremes, leads to a distortion toward one’s own greatness, one’s own specialness above others.

The first extreme of courage is too much fear that leads to a lack of action.  The second extreme of courage is a reckless bravado, charging ahead without the ability to do so and therefore to endanger self and others.

Humility requires a middle-ground between self-deprecation and self-inflation to a more realistic view of one’s own (and others’) strengths and weaknesses.

Courage requires a middle-ground between being frozen in fear and being reckless.

As one forgives, the person needs to balance both humility and courage.  Genuine humility (without the extremes discussed above) helps the forgiver to see the shared humanity with the forgiven.  Genuine courage (without those extremes) helps the forgiver to persevere in the struggle to forgive and to bring justice as its own moral virtue into the process of reconciliation.

Humility, courage, and forgiveness are a team that, together, can lead to inner healing and the offer of reconciliation toward those who have behaved unjustly.

Robert

People in Chicago again are protesting the gun violence there. Would implementing IFI’s Forgiveness curriculum into all schools & Forgiveness Therapy into prison, anger management, drug and marriage programs help with lowering the violence there? If so what else would this help in Chicago for instance lower bullying, cyberbullying, suicides, etc?

Your insights are very insightful and important.  Yes, we agree with you that IFI’s forgiveness curriculum in all or at least many schools would reduce student anger. Once in their mid-teens, many of the adolescents should have their anger reduced and not at a level that might lead to violence.  Forgiveness therapy in the prison system also should reduce anger so that it is not a motivator to hurt others.  Forgiveness therapy in drug rehabilitation programs and in marriage programs should help reduce stress in those who do this kind of work.

The key issue is not whether or not forgiveness education and forgiveness therapy would work.  Instead, that key issue is this: How can we get the attention of the decision makers in schools, prisons, drug rehabilitation units, and marriage counseling centers so that these forgiveness programs are given a chance to be implemented?  In our experience, leaders need to see the efficacy of forgiveness for it to move forward.  How can we get the attention of the leaders?