Forgiveness is not easy. Even in our daily, routine life, it’s often difficult to let go of negative feelings after we feel wronged—even if it was just someone cutting in front of us in traffic or in line at Starbucks. For nine years, I have been listening to stories from victims of the most horrible crimes by humans against other humans. There is no way I can imagine what the process might be in order for someone in those circumstances to be able to forgive—or even if they’d want to.
Someone that is an expert in forgiveness and reconciliation is the Reverend Desmond Tutu. He and his daughter, Mpho, have launched a month long Forgiveness Challenge, which started on Sunday, May 4. They are asking people to join them in a journey of discovery:
“The Forgiveness Challenge will help you discover how the act of forgiving can bring more love and peace to your life. When enough of us forgive – we can change the world!”
As we begin this journey through Darfuri refugee camps, our 19th, I will also join Reverend Tutu’s journey exploring forgiveness. I know it will help me personally, but I also know that I need it to better understand my refugee friends and their personal journey.
When we started working on Little Ripples, our preschool program in the camps, we imagined a place where children would play and thrive, both physically and emotionally. It would be a place where they would practice empathy, compassion, and collaboration. It is now a year since the Little Ripples pilot school opened, and we have definitely contributed to our original goals with the children. But, we did not know how important this program was going to be for the teachers, the young women who were girls when their villages were attacked, family and friends killed, and they became refugees.
I cannot presume to know whether this experience in the schools, where they are practicing mindfulness and peaceful interactions with the children, might also help them in their journey towards forgiveness and internal peace. What I do know is that it is a joy to see them play, sing, and laugh with the children at the school. I hope to learn from them—how to experience joy and not let the past be an insurmountable obstacle.
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