To know all is to forgive all’ (French, mid 20th century)
1st April 2019
On the altar of the ruins of the old cathedral in Coventry are carved the words ‘Father forgive’. During their recent visit the Inters were told how originally some people had wanted it to read ‘Father forgive them’. However, in recognition of the need for forgiveness for all in times of conflict and that none of us is without fault or ‘sin’, the words carved were simply ’Father forgive’.
The message of Coventry Cathedral is one of forgiveness and reconciliation, which are necessary steps before peace can be gained, either on a personal or international level. Forgiveness entails recognition of one’s own weaknesses and acknowledgement of the ‘why’ behind the actions of those we seek to forgive.
After the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, I imagine all must have been astounded by the words of Farid Ahmed who said of his wife’s killer, ‘I forgive him, I do not hate him’. He went on to say that there must have been some trauma in his earlier life, a lack of love, to make him that way. Mr Ahmed’s knowledge of what can make a person so hateful, helped him to exercise forgiveness.
In Islam forgiveness is a quality of Allah, to be reflected in life. In Christianity too, forgiveness is a divine attribute and at the core of the Easter message. It is hard to forgive, that is why it is considered ‘divine’, because it doesn’t come naturally to us. We are more likely to seek revenge and our morality is often black and white and a case of ‘goodies’ or ‘baddies’, when it comes to people. That’s why this season of Lent is so important as a time of personal reflection and ‘soul-searching’. Knowing our own weaknesses and flaws as human beings makes us less able to maintain simple distinctions between the ‘righteous’ and the ‘wicked’. That is the mindset of the perpetrators of atrocities and one firmly rejected by Farid Ahmed. Forgiveness does not however preclude justice, but is necessary in order that there might be the hope of future reconciliation and peace.
Finally in the words of Farid Ahmed, ‘If someone does bad to you, make sure you do good to them’. That’s a tough call and for many an impossibility without the Grace of God.
Mrs C Crossley