Forgiveness, real and imagined

December 13, 2007

From the Times Literary Supplement, December 12th 2007

When forgiveness becomes the public rallying cry, played out on daytime television soap operas, encouraged by civic and religious leaders, and praised far and wide for its power to heal, its slide into confusion and vulgarity is inevitable. It becomes identified with “closure”, it is sentimentalized and transformed into therapy, and the criteria for its practice are obscured. It melds into forgetfulness of wrong, and is granted all too easily, once the expected public theatrics are performed.

From the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, November 23rd 2007

Michael Okello 32, of Koch Goma internal refugee camp, complained that rebel team leader Martin Ojul chose a very disparaging way of asking for forgiveness from victims. It seemed as if Ojul was making them apologise, he said.

“This is adding insult to injury. Does it mean that these people came all their way to tell us to rise up our hands so that they take our pictures and show the world?” he asked.

“Are they after genuine reconciliation? “They want us to reconcile but they haven’t accounted for the atrocities they committed.”To many, Ojul was not offering an apology on behalf of the LRA. Rather he was trying to create an impression that the Acholi community has forgiven Kony and is opposed to a trial for Kony and his top commanders in front of the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague.

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