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´´They are little things. They do not end with poverty, nor do they take us out of underdevelopment, nor do they socialize the means of production and change, nor do they expropriate the caves of Ali Baba. But perhaps they trigger the joy of doing and translate into acts. After all, acting upon reality and changing it, although it may only be a little bit, is the only way of checking that reality is transformable.¨

Eduardo Galeano

Frequently, communities, families, and companies seem doomed to confront interpersonal conflicts and social, cultural, and symbolic violence. But what should be done before these conflicts erupt? How can narratives and attitudes be transformed to reject these practices and prevent them from occurring again?

Social harmony is a state in which citizens have a heightened conscience of the consequences of their actions, and in addition, citizens have the skills to manage conflict through dialogue from a restorative perspective. This state could perhaps be a beneficial route to overcoming the consequences of successive conflicts and learning to manage and/or avoid future conflict.

This route implies transforming:

  • Narratives
  • Imaginations
  • Historically Constructed Attitudes

At the Foundation for Reconciliation, we believe that it is possible to promote cultural change starting with people´s daily routine by introducing reflection and practical exercises that can overcome the paralysis generated by violence in victims and perpetrators. The culture of revenge or retaliation is one of the causes of paralysis, and it contributes highly to the escalation of violence.

Since 2003, the Foundation for Reconciliation has experimented with growing success in the promotion of the Political Culture of Forgiveness and Reconciliation as much in community settings as in the family and educational institutions.

This approach has the advantage of being a prevention strategy, but at the same time the creation of this new Political Culture develops restorative justice, successful emotional management, dialogue, respect for diversity, a better collective memory, and care for others.

During 15 years, we have reached more than 2,200,000 people in 19 countries.  We have replicated our methodological banner of the Schools of Forgiveness and Reconciliation and have advanced its ideals in diverse publications and investigations, which make us leaders in the promotion of Forgiveness and Reconciliation as skills for all citizens to learn, crucial for the construction of peace.

What is meant by forgiveness and how does our organization understand it?

It is a process of introspection where the offended person redefines the unpleasant memory of the offense and recovers her security, while defining how she acted before the offense. She should recall the offense without resentment or desires of revenge, while enhancing her relationships, projecting her perspective on life, and acquiring skills to manage conflict.

Forgiveness has two sisters: restorative justice and  compassion. In fact, forgiveness is the most powerful self-restoration tool that a victim can have. Without this process, the victim remains a victim forever.

What is the Political Culture of Forgiveness and Reconciliation?

In the last two decades, the social sciences have increasingly focused on an indispensable element for a durable peace: the political culture or citizen culture of forgiveness. In the past, many studies have looked at reconciliation, but few have looked at forgiveness. Some scholars have erroneously thought that forgiveness is only a religious tool. In the future, in the process of humanity’s evolution, when we overcome the archaic thinking conditioned by guilt and punishment, we will understand that forgiveness is a political virtue. We dare to predict that forgiveness will become a human right, indispensable for peoples´ healthy living and the full realization of human dignity. The famous author Hannah Arendt said, ´´the offender is forgiven because of his supreme dignity.´´

Without negating its importance, it is easier and more worthwhile for politicians to seek to overcome the objective causes of violence: employment, health, education, and housing, among others, than overcoming the resentments and desires for revenge that fester after long conflicts as in the case of Colombia. The worst part is that this aspect is ignored and remains hidden in the collective unconscious.

Since this aspect is ignored, one cannot understand that the citizen culture of forgiveness is a powerful sociocultural and political strategy to facilitate the fluid and peaceful implementation of justice, truth, reparation, and guarantees that the conflict will not repeat itself.

The Political Culture of Forgiveness and Reconciliation is the collection of practices, meanings, thoughts, and attitudes that create a balanced, sociopolitical relationship between members of social groups, thus promoting respect, diversity, empathy, restoration, and care as values of a new ethical, cultural, and political paradigm.

Assuming that individuals that compose a social group have formed together for a political activity, which is also public, the values of Forgiveness and Reconciliation offer a conjunction of practices that promote a social life. Forgiveness and Reconciliation promote a social life because they favor ethical meetings between people who for diverse circumstances are separated and divided.

The Political Culture of Forgiveness and Reconciliation is offered as a tool to promote social life, to facilitate relationships on equal terms, to orient social life towards cooperation, and to foster solidarity and care as qualities that one can develop.

Why do we promote the Political Culture of Forgiveness and Reconciliation?

The main interest in promoting a Political of Forgiveness and Reconciliation lies in spreading practices of inclusion, respect, self-evaluation, and group interactions as valid strategies for strengthening communities. A society with a weak social fabric and capital becomes conducive to socially corrosive activities such as disorderly conduct, vandalism, corruption, and political patronage, which are reproduced and praised as useful tools for social development and advancement.

We facilitate a political pedagogy by promoting meetings for discussion and comprehension of history, providing the tools that accompany the discussion, discussing the ways in which subjects are involved actively or passively, so that from there, citizens can have greater power and boost the indictment process in society (not only for public officials). Above all, each citizen should recognize her part in national development.

What is its purpose?

Recognizing that the exercise of power and politics are dimensions of human life that take place in the social sphere, the Political Culture of Forgiveness and Reconciliation seeks to found a new social and community development scheme of meetings, transformation, and healing. Arendt (2005) said it well, ´´Forgiveness is a political virtue because it develops faculties: making and maintaining promises simultaneously to forgive and be forgiven.´´ These faculties promote the development of societies because they cause us to live together, to be in proximity to one another, to overcome difference, to realize human potential, and to learn from our mistakes and difficulties.

Adapting Forgiveness and Reconciliation as a political culture is creating a new social paradigm in which participation is valued and in which public life is not evaluated based on what others do, but on what each person produces and generates in daily life and in interactions among neighbors and within communities.

What is the process that we use to create the Political Culture of Forgiveness and Reconciliation?

With the aim of enhancing the capacity of generating personal agency for citizen empowerment, we first invite you to live through a personal learning experience with the tools of Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

Through the reflections about our daily experiences and the transformations in daily life, we hope that the values of understanding, emotional management, empathy, appreciating differences among people, dialogue, respect, restoration, active memory of past events, and civic participation can start to be incorporated in all levels of daily relationships.