What happened in Washington DC

Recently we had a pleasure to show you the video from “Love and Forgiveness in Governance” Symposium which was held on November 14 in Washington. The delegation, in which to representatives from the Centre for Thought of John Pau II: Dr. Michał Łuczewski, Deputy Director of the Centre, and Dr. Monika Gabriela Bartoszewicz, coordinator of the “Treasure of Solidarity” project took part, was one week long and full of fascinating intellectual encounters.

“Love and Forgiveness in Governance” Symposium was held at Georgetown University (the oldest Catholic University in America). The Symposium was co-organized by our Center and the Berkeley Centre for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, School for Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, Center for Human and Civil Rights at Notre Dame University, the Community of San Egidio, Contemplatives in Action Initiative at Georgetown University’s Office of the President and the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, with the generous support from the Fetzer Institute.

The Symposium took place from 13th to 14th of November 2014 and gathered representatives of the academia and the world affairs, as well as experts from around the world specializing in the topics of love and forgiveness, understood as political category. Our guiding principle was the word of John Paul II, who said that “the true pillars of Peace are justice and this special kind of love, which is forgiveness” (John Paul II, there is no peace without justice, there is no justice without forgiveness. Message of His Holiness John Paul II for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2002, 2, [In] John Paul II, „Świat nie jest zamęt…” Akademia Dyplomatyczna MSZ, Warsaw 2003.)

Among the speakers there were Paul Bhatti, Miroslav Volf, and Jerry Owen.

Paul Bhatti, Pakistani Catholic and former Minister of Minorities talked about his road to political activity and his involvement in fostering a peaceful coexistence of different Pakistani religions. Paul Bhatti decided to take part in public activity after the death of his brutally murdered brother. Paul Bhatti publicly forgave the killers of his brother.

Professor Miroslav Volf (Yale University), gave a lecture on forgiveness, its motives and structure and the indispensable cleansing of memory. He reminded us that what speaks for forgiveness are not only the arguments of theological and ethical nature, but also the pragmatic ones. In the lecture he exposed the mechanism of vicious circle whereby a compulsion to repeat experienced crimes by revenge is devastating for the human kind. Prof. Volf has been persuading that the routine of violence can only be stopped by forgiveness.

Jerry White (US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State) was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. He spoke about forgiveness not only from the perspective of practitioner involved in political activities, but also of someone who had experienced personal tragedy (Jerry White lost his leg in an unmarked minefield in Israel where he was travelling in his youth). In his lecture he emphasised that forgiveness does not encourage a man to despise himself, but rather to rediscover himself. He also pointed out that if forgiveness in the social and political range is to lead to a permanent reconciliation between agitated communities, it needs to activate certain practical mechanisms of conciliatory processes.

Dr. Łuczewski and Dr. Bartoszewicz presented the results and recommendations of the “Treasure of Solidarity” project with regards to love and forgiveness in the context of the Polish Solidarity experience. They claimed that solidarity should be considered as not only a history lesson but also as a homework for the whole humanity. As pointed out in their speech: “Solidarity was the force that changed the face of Poland, it may also change the face of the world. If we want to experience the global changes on a big scale, we need a global solidarity”. Also, during Symposium the trailer of the “Father, Son and Friend” movie was presented and met with a warm welcome.

The Symposium was also attended by prof. Andrea Bartoli (San Egidio, Seton Hall University), prof. Daniel Philpott (Notre Dame University), Tom Banchoff (Director of Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs), JE Alwi Shihab (Special Envoy to Middle East and Organization of the Islamic Conference), Stephen Oola, Evelyn Akullo (the Justice and Reconciliation Project), Angelina Atyam (Co-Founder and Mentor, Concerned Children and Youth Association, Uganda), Judy Barsalou (El Hibri Foundation) and representatives of the Fetzer Institute, including members of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation (Carolyn Brown). They were all highly impressed by the “Treasure of Solidarity” project and the Symposium itself was an opportunity to make many contacts that – hopefully – will bear fruits in the future in the form of new international projects.


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