Together with conference participants we will be listening for a way to heal relationships in Zimbabwe. There will be many presentations, discussions, workshops and practices that we will experience together. The schedule includes:
- a presentations by the Minister of Healing and Reconciliation on what the government is already doing to bring about healing.
- a representative of an ecumenical group within Zimbabwe will report on attempts by individual churches to heal relationships.
- the Catholic bishop for Zimbabwe will share his experience of reconciliation within Catholic parishes.
- a panel of Headsmen, tribal leaders, will speak on the needs of various communities and talk about traditional approaches communal and individual healing.
- Mazvita Machinga will guide a small group discussion in which pastoral counselors will be encouraged to share their experiences– particularly the needs they have witnessed within their communities.
Colleague Frank Rogers will then give a presentation on “Restorative Justice.” In this presentation Frank will talk about the “Victim’s Journey” and the nature of forgiveness. One of the things that is so helpful in this presenation is something called “The Misconceptions of Forgiveness.” Here’s the ten common misconceptions:
- Forgiveness means forgetting the offense. (Forgiveness fully acknowledges the offense, and secures future safety.)
- Forgiveness means excusing the offense. (The offense was wrong. Forgiveness never pretends otherwise.)
- Forgiveness means anger is inappropriate. (Anger is an alarm that signals the need for protection; its cry should be honored.)
- Forgiveness means the offender is no longer accountable. (Forgiveness means the victim’s freedom from resentment. The offender may still need to be restrained.)
- Forgiveness means I must be reconciled with the offender.(Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. Forgiveness is the victim’s healing. Reconciliation involves right relationship that demands the wrong-doer’s accountability.)
- Forgiveness means re-submission to violation, perhaps even 70×7 times. (Forgiveness is in service of healing and life; it never asks for self-debasement.)
- Forgiveness is a commandment forcing good Christians to do something they don’t really feel. (Forgiveness is an invitation for healing and renewal.)
- If you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven. (God has already forgiven humanity; forgiveness is a way of knowing this more deeply.)
- Forgiveness can be demanded by the offender. (Offenders can ask to make restitution, to apologize, to repair a wound; if truly repentant, they should respect the victim’s pace of healing.)
- Someone else can forgive the person who offended you. (Forgiveness is the victim’s personal journey; neither the church, the state, nor any another person can make that journey for the victim.)
Frank will also talk about the “Perpetrator’s Journey,” and discuss the conditions under which real reconciliation can take place. I find what’s most powerful in Frank’s presentation is the affirmation that whatever a victim is experiencing has a core of goodness in it. Frank asserts that a victim’s soul (anybody’s soul really) is always seeking to do exactly what a person needs. For example, there is something good at the core of a victim’s anger, at it’s core it is a bid for personal power. A victim who is in self-denial, at it’s core is seeking a safe context for healing and comfort. Within a victim’s self-denying enmeshmint is a bid to feel compassion for the wrong-doer. Frank seeks to help participants see that there is a good desire within whatever a victim is experiencing that needs to be held and acknowledged…even encouraged. This approach helps victims not reject or feel conflicted about their own reaction to their suffering.
At the end of the conference participants will try and craft a process to take back to their own communities to help bring about reconciliation and healing.
Pray for Frank’s presentations and for the conference participants, that we might discover a way to bring about healing in Zimbabwe.