Forgiveness saved his life - can it save the world?

Tonight, as I was cooking dinner, I browsed my list of podcasts and chose CBC Ideas. I clicked today's show, and was surprised to hear the voice of my friend, Jean Paul Samputu. Jean Paul Samputu is the man who gives me the most hope of anyone in the world that forgiveness is humanly possible, even after the most vicious atrocities.

Jean Paul Samputu is a Rwandan, and he lost numerous members of his family in the genocide. What's even more shocking, his best friend and neighbour was the one who killed them. The unspeakable loss, and learning who caused it, was more than Jean Paul could bear. He told me he almost lost his life drowning his sorrows (and memories) with alcohol for years. The thing that saved him was forgiving his friend.

 

“Jean Paul Samputu is the man who gives me the most hope of anyone in the world that forgiveness is humanly possible, even after the most vicious atrocities.”

 

The thing that made forgiving the man he had vowed to kill possible was finally accepting the fact that forgiveness was for his own healing, not for the killer's. It didn't minimise the atrocities. It didn't condone them. It didn't mean the perpetrator should not be prosecuted. It meant that Jean Paul could finally move on with his life because he had redeemed it from hatred.

The second half of the program is an interview with Payam Akhavan, author of the Report on the Work of the Office of the Special Advisor of the United Nations Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide (2005), Chairman of the Global Conference on the Prevention of Genocide (2007), co-producer of the documentary film “Genos.Cide: The Great Challenge” (2009).

Akhayan's research confirms that we need to prevent genocides before they happen - when they are just words - by combatting hate speech, radical people-group identification, and dehumanisation of the other. He counts the prevention of genocides in Burundi and Macedonia as silent successes of prevention, while lamenting the difficulty that even global human rights experts have acting on prevention before there is physical violence to condemn. Unfortunately, there are numerous situations today in which radical "us and them" ideologies are causing or condoning human rights abuses and killing.

 

“Forgiveness is the most powerful underutilized weapon against terrorism and atrocities.” Jean Paul Samputu

 

Years ago, Jean Paul Samputu told me, "Forgiveness is the most powerful underutilized weapon against terrorism and atrocities." In fact, we created a website to promote his dream of a global "forgiveness campaign" to share his conviction - and miraculous example - of forgiveness, wherever it was needed in the world. Today, I wish Jean Paul was speaking to the Islamic State, counteracting their social media campaign, promoting peace in Israel and Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, and countless other countries.

As believers in peace, the least we can do is forgive more quickly and generously in our personal lives. Then, we can lend our voice honestly to the truth that our common humanity far outweighs our political, religious, or ethnic differences, wherever our heart is leading us to speak the loudest.

Listen to the CBC Ideas program, Rwanda Reconciliation, and learn more about the impressive speakers

Listen to Jean Paul Samputu's music (I'm listening to it as I post this)