The Forgiveness Project

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Ryan Geertsma and Robin Basselin tell about an organization that collects and shares stories of forgiveness. They encourage people to live better lives through forgiveness.

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight.  I’m Ryan Geertsma.

Voice 2 

And I’m Robin Basselin. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

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Voice 1 

Marina Cantacuzino is a news writer. In 2003, she started a project that changed her life. For many months, Marina worked with an artist named Brian Moody. Together, they met with individuals that had been affected by crime. Some of the people were victims of crimes. Other people were criminals. Brian took pictures of each person. Marina asked each person to tell their story. These stories were about terrible pain, loss, and regret. But they were also about forgiveness.

Voice 2 

Marina and Brian gathered these stories and pictures together. With them, they created an exhibit or public art show. They called the exhibit “The F Word.” It used the words and images of the people to show that forgiveness is complex. This exhibit led Marina to start an organization called “The Forgiveness Project.” Today’s Spotlight is on The Forgiveness Project and the power of spreading forgiveness around the world.

Voice 1 

In 2004, The F Word exhibit opened in London, England. Many people came and saw it. Soon, other cities wanted to show the exhibit too.  So, the exhibit started travelling around the world. People in over 350 places saw The F Word show. Marina wrote about two main ways people reacted to the exhibit.

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“There are people who see forgiveness as a very honorable and humble way to react to terrible events. And then there are those who simply laugh at it. For the first group, forgiveness is a strong value. It is strong enough to end generations of trouble caused by revenge – when people choose to hurt those who hurt them. But for the second group, forgiveness is just a weak answer. This group feels that forgiveness lets the violator go free and only encourages more violence.”

Photo by Kerri Shaver
Voice 2 

Marina learned a lot about forgiveness through her work on the exhibit. She discovered that forgiving is not easy for anyone. Talking about forgiveness causes strong emotions – both in people who choose to forgive and in people who do not forgive. Marina saw that forgiveness was a process that only worked if people freely chose it.  She also recognized that it had the power to transform or completely change difficult situations.  This power and the popularity of the exhibit caused Marina to start The Forgiveness Project.

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The goal of The Forgiveness Project is “to build a better future by healing the wounds of the past”.  They do this by encouraging discussion and education about forgiveness. They also work to spread positive stories of forgiveness.

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One part of the project is its prison program. This program is designed to teach prisoners about forgiveness and help keep them from doing more crimes in the future. The Forgiveness Project also works in schools. It provides materials that help students explore ideas about forgiveness.  It also teaches students about conflict resolution.

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The Forgiveness Project also has a special place on its website where it collects stories from men and women all over the world. This collection of stories shows how complex forgiveness is. For example, consider the stories of Tracey Ford and Mariane Pearl.

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Tracey Ford believes in forgiveness – even in the worst situations. And in 2007 her belief was tested. Her son Andre was 17. He went to a friend’s birthday party. When he was there, criminals shot guns at the party crowd. They shot Andre two times and murdered him. The police did not find the people who killed Andre. And yet, Tracey says she forgives the people who killed her son. She told The Forgiveness Project:

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“Forgiveness is not saying that what happened was okay. It is being able to say in your heart that you accept what has happened. And you will not let it stop you living a life or seeing humanity in the person who has hurt you.”

Photo by Jon Flobrant
Voice 1 

But Mariane Pearl feels differently about forgiveness. Mariane lived in Pakistan with her husband. In 2002, her husband was murdered by a terrorist group. She told The Forgiveness Project that she could not forgive her husband’s killer. But she also did not want revenge. She did not want to hurt him in return. Instead, she wanted the court system to provide justice. She describes her feelings on The Forgiveness Project website.

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“Revenge is a basic human desire. It is the animal part of man. It gets us nowhere… But forgiveness lacks substance as an answer to extreme situations…You have to win some sort of victory over the people who have hurt you. You can only do that by denying the terrorists their goal. They try to kill everything in you… The only way to oppose them is by demonstrating the strength they think they have taken from you. That strength is to keep on living, to keep on valuing life.”

Voice 2 

As Mariane’s story demonstrates, it is difficult to talk about forgiveness without talking about justice. So, The Forgiveness Project encourages people to seek restorative justice. This kind of justice works to build relationships between victims and the criminals who hurt them.  Restorative justice also identifies ways to repair harm when possible. Matthew James’ story is a good example of restorative justice.

Voice 1 

Matthew is from England. One day, while Matthew was at work, someone entered his house. This person stole his things and left. Matthew was angry. A few weeks later, the same robber can back to Matthew’s home. Now Matthew felt unsafe. He felt like he could not protect himself or his girlfriend. After a month, the police arrested the man who entered Matthew’s house. His name was Billy.

Voice 2 

Soon after, a police officer invited Matthew to meet Billy. Matthew decided to go to the prison and talk with Billy. But he was not the only person there. Other victims Billy hurt were there too. Billy told Matthew and the others about his past. Then, the victims talked about how they were hurt by Billy’s actions. Matthew saw a change in Billy. Billy could now see how his actions had hurt real people like Matthew. Matthew told The Forgiveness Project,

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“When I left the prison I recognized that things had changed for me. I changed from being a victim of crime to being able to see things from Billy’s side. Some kind of balance had returned.”

Voice 1 

Forgiveness looks different in every situation. For some people, it requires justice. For others, it is a process of grace. Some people can only forgive if the criminal shows regret for his actions. Others can forgive without even knowing the criminal. For some it means every day deciding to forgive again. Even though people may experience and describe forgiveness differently, Marina Cantacuzino believes it always has power. She writes,

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“Forgiveness is difficult, costly and painful. But it has the possible ability to completely change a person.”

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Courtney Schutt. The producer was Ryan Geertsma. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “The Forgiveness Project”.

Question:

Have you ever had to forgive someone? Was it easy or difficult? Write your answer in the comments below.

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