What We Do
Forgiveness & Reconciliation
Forgiveness & Reconciliation
Our 1-year UNSCR 1325 ‘People2People’ initiative in the Rift Valley, Kenya in 2010-2011following the Post Election Violence in 2007/2008 trained 20 women leaders to become Forgiveness and Reconciliation Counselors. It enabled grassroots women in the communities most at risk (i) to reach across party and tribal lines to secure peace and security; (ii) to play a decisive role in conflict mitigation; (iii) to grow the inner development to help individuals and groups re-humanize each other, foster empathy and mutual understanding, build trust and create healthy relationships, as a basis for long term reconciliation. 20 rural women activists, each conducted their own community peace intervention project in Nakuru, Kericho, Borabu, Sotik, Kisii, Burnt Forest, Mt Elgon, Pokot and Turkana, and were assisted with training and mentoring about fear management, forgiveness, project planning and accountability, and media strategy. The community impact was considerable, with 5000 confirmed beneficiaries and independently verifiable outcomes. The women leaders trained still substantially contribute to the cohesion and security of their communities. Some of the trainees help us in our training programmes, others have become Board members of Feminenza Kenya.
Where there is no forgiveness, wounds cannot heal
Forgiveness is a complex matter. Often people ask: Why should I forgive? How can I forgive? What is the relevance of forgiveness in a situation of on-going conflict? What is the relationship between forgiveness and justice? If I forgive, surely I am condoning wrongful actions and allowing them to continue?
‘Not forgiving’ has become enshrined in culture, tradition, ideology. It is called revenge; an eye for an eye; just deserts; tit for tat; payback; vendetta. As a result, we can end up cutting ourselves off from loved ones, family, friends. On a bigger scale, we can end up justifying murder on a small and large scale, settling scores that are hundreds of years old. It is considered the right, the honourable course of action. And yet, bereavement counsellors frequently reflect that when a person is approaching their deathbed, often their greatest terror is not the physical pain, but the emotional pain of what they have not been able to resolve, forgive, let go of. Seemingly, it catches up with all of us in the end.
We don’t have to remain locked in the past. There is a way – a way to restore ourselves to our inherent humanity, where we can find understanding, compassion, hope for the future, and a true release from the bonds of the past, whether we need to forgive ourselves, or forgive others.
The 7 Pillars of Forgiveness
The question that is often posed, is, “How do I actually start the process of forgiveness? Are there any practical things I can do?” Through the 7 Pillars of Understanding, Freedom, Remedy, Warmth, Enhancement, Hope and Continuance, Feminenza has created practical pathways, real steps that can be taken, to help people from all backgrounds walk the path of finding a better way. It recognises that forgiveness is a journey, and that the process is different for each person. It can be a short one or a long one. It can take a few days or a lifetime. You do not ‘have to forgive’. There are things you may never forgive. Feminenza’s programme provides tools, should you wish to walk that path. How does a person, for example, develop the ability to let go of the pain associated with a memory? Or how does one begin to understand that a person is more than their current actions and how does one therefore separate the person from the act, to enable both of you to move on? How is it possible, for real, to let go of the pains of the past and move forward into the future?
The 7 Pillars offer profound access into our ability to forgive, and therefore go beyond the path of pain, revenge or violence.
1. Workshops on Forgiveness
Forgiveness workshops are currently available, on request, in the USA, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Germany, United Kingdom, Ireland, Greece, Turkey, Israel and Kenya.
Examples of these are:
A series of 1-day workshops that were provided for homeless women in the Cascade Women’s Program in Seattle, Washington, North America
Workshops on the 7 Pillars as part of a 1 year course on the Role of Forgiveness in the Educational Encounter, for educators in the Gordon Teachers Training College in Haifa, Israel
Workshops as an integral part of a two-year Young Women’s Leadership Program in Peekskill, New York
1-day workshops to women refugees in Denmark
2. Workshops as part of Trauma Healing
This workshop has been successfully offered to groups and communities who have experienced severe conflicts and violence and may have been carrying these traumas within themselves for many years, sometimes decades.
It teaches participants to:
Understand the Pathways of Forgiveness and their role in PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) reduction
Leave the past behind
Move themselves and others away from the cycle of violence, by ‘re-humanizing the other’
Foster empathy and mutual understanding, build trust
The Forgiveness process helps the participants to address, for example, deep issues of pain, hurt, shame and guilt, looking at them in a new light, enabling the participant to let go, to update the story that they tell themselves, to choose to live in the present and future, not the past.
Being able to forgive others
Participants who have experienced hurt, betrayal, perhaps in a broken relationship, or even extreme trauma at the hand of others – rape, torture, abandonment – have frequently expressed a huge shift by the end of the workshop – from ‘I will never forgive’ to ‘forgiveness is an act of empowerment, I deserve it so that I can be free to live my life again.’
Being able to forgive oneself
Often participants feel responsible, rightly or wrongly, for having caused hurt to others, as well as being victims themselves. At one end of the scale, they may have simply made an unfortunate choice at some point in their life, with painful consequences. At the other end of the scale, they may have found themselves in the role, willingly or unwillingly, of being a perpetrator committing acts of violence (e.g. in a war zone) – so alongside being able to forgive others, self forgiveness and taking responsibility is also a major issue to address. It is what experts are coming to identify as moral injury: “perpetrating, failing to prevent, bearing witness to, or learning about acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations”. In contrast to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which springs from fear, moral injury is a violation of what each of us considers right or wrong. It is like a bruise on the soul, akin to grief or sorrow, with lasting impact on the individuals and on their families.
3. Forgiveness Practitioner Training
Becoming a Forgiveness Counsellor/Practitioner involves a certification process and is a unique training of the mind, the heart and the will. Women and men are trained and then individually mentored to establish a project within their community, which can range from taking an active role in stepping down conflict and violence, to working with traumatized girls or women, helping vulnerable youth, to establishing the role of forgiveness in education. The need for forgiveness is far-reaching and is applicable to all human lives, regardless of circumstance, creed or background. It is deeply human work.
What They’re Saying
The grids and techniques offered in the course were really helpful because they were practical and I can use them in my life. For example, ‘how to hold the best of another in yourself’ – this technique was a revelation to me because I have heard the phrase many times, but never before had I thought to find a technique, and the approach taken during the course enabled me to do this safely and very effectively.
In moments where a conflict was about to happen or started to arrive – something held me back and reminded me about what by now I call, the Forgiveness attitude messages. So there is more awareness of location to view life from, like there are more eyes that look at a situation.
I came to see I have many qualities and when looking at all these qualities, my fears seemed very small to me.