Conflict, Memory and Forgiveness | November 18, 2009

Many of the conflicts in human society – conflicts between individuals, between families, between ethnic groups – have arisen because one party in the conflict feels having been wronged. In many instances the original wrong, if there was one, may have taken place a good while back. But the memory over time still stokes strong feelings of anger. And over time too the party or parties seen as the wrong doer are strengthened in their claim to innocence and feel outraged at being charged with having done something they deny being guilty of. Over time the specifics of the case get dimmer and dimmer. What remains strong is the feeling of anger of the two parties to each other, and the feeling of each party that it is the injured party.

One writer has said “To be human is to be flawed. We err, act without thinking, and react out of anger, frustration and indifference. It is impossible to be in relationship with others and not hurt them at some point along the way. “This being so, misunderstandings with others is an “accident” waiting to happen. The probability of a misunderstanding is higher when at the back of our consciousness is the awareness of the undercurrents of conflict simmering below the surface.

Memory is a crucial factor that leads to the festering of ill feelings of one individual to another, one group to other groups. How far back can, or should, memories go? In less than a hundred years unbelievably atrocious actions of one group against members of another group have become recorded experiences of the world. The Holocaust in Nazi Germany. The mass killings associated with the formation of India and Pakistan. The genocides in Srebrenica and Darfur. The point here is that enough of such cruelty has taken place in our world and if there is no conscious decision taken to set aside such painful memories the cycle of hatred will keep on.group against members of another group have become recorded experiences of the world. The Holocaust in Nazi Germany. The mass killings associated with the formation of India and Pakistan. The genocides in Srebrenica and Darfur. The point here is that enough of such cruelty has taken place in our world and if there is no conscious decision taken to set aside such painful memories the cycle of hatred will keep on.On an individual level there is a story that appeared in the Internet. An Indian immigrant to the US became a successful investment banker and his son was attending college. He felt that his life was another example of the “American dream” fulfilled. In one of those random killing incidents, his son was shot to death. He said that when he heard the news he felt like a bomb had exploded inside him. The killer, a young man just about the same age as his son, was arrested and sentenced. However, the bereaved father decided that he would not let anger and bitterness rule his life. The grandfather of the killer asked forgiveness in the name of the killer. The father of the victim and the grandfather of the killer, both in grief, joined up and started a movement for a forgiving spirit. The grief experienced by two families became the inspiration for others and a deterrent against violence.
Silsilah uses the Harmony Prayer and two lines in the prayer goes
O Lord, I cry for peace… Purify my memory to work for peace.

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