"An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind." - Mahatma Ghandi
It was March, 2002, when soldiers came knocking at the door of Tel Aviv mother Robi Damelin. A Palestinian sniper had ended the life of her 28-year-old son, David. The first words from her mouth were: "Do not take revenge in the name of my son."
Today Damelin works for The Parent's Circle, an organization bringing together Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost loved ones in one of the world's most long-standing and bitter conflicts. Together they find healing through forgiveness, seeking to end an endless war one family at a time.
We discovered Damelin's story via a tweet from a dear friend, a man who knows a thing or two about forgiveness -- Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The man who once helped heal a divided nation is now trying to heal a world where peace seems to be in short supply. Tutu knows peace can only come through forgiveness, and forgiving big wrongs begins with learning to forgive the little ones. That's why he's launched the Global Forgiveness Challenge.
In 1975, as South Africa lay in the grip of the racist apartheid regime, Tutu became the country's first black Anglican bishop. In the years that followed, he stood alongside Nelson Mandela as one of the most prominent faces of the anti-apartheid movement. His efforts earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
After the fall of apartheid in the 1990s, Tutu chaired South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. From 1996 to 1998, Tutu heard day after endless day of testimony, dredging to light decades of the most horrific abuses imaginable. While the need for justice was never forgotten, Tutu made forgiveness the Commission's top priority. His work deserves much credit for preventing South Africa from plummeting into racial civil war, as many believed it would after apartheid.
What astounds us is that, despite everything he saw and endured during the apartheid years, Tutu remains one of the most joyful human beings we know. A laugh is never far from his lips. When music plays, he is the first on his feet dancing. We can only attribute this to his mastery of the art of forgiveness. Tutu's soul remains unburdened by anger and vindictiveness. Not just for the big wrongs, but for all the little day-to-day events that cause the rest of us to seethe and fume.
When someone cuts us off during the drive to work, we grumble about it for the whole day. We can't wait to get home and rant on Facebook about drivers who apparently got their licenses from a cereal box. Spouses get into an argument, and suddenly accusations are flying about who forgot to take out the garbage three months ago. There are countless web sites devoted to getting revenge on your ex.
As a society, we've lost the ability to just take a deep breath and, as the song from Frozen urges, "let it go."
That's what Tutu's Global Forgiveness Challenge is all about -- learning how to forgive all the little things. In addition to inspiring quotes and stories from celebrities like Alanis Morissette and Arianna Huffington, participants who join the challenge will receive a daily email for 30 days from Tutu and his daughter, Mpho. They will suggest exercises that "teach you how to forgive anyone for anything."
It may sound like an impossible task. But as Tutu says in a video message on the Challenge web site: "From what I have witnessed I can tell you, there is no one who is beyond hope, and nothing that is unforgivable."
And as Tutu tells us, forgiveness can change the world. If we cannot forgive a store clerk for being rude, how can we forgive the people of another nation with whom we are in conflict? And if we cannot forgive them, how can we ever hope to make peace with them?
Archbishop Desmond Tutu invites everyone to join him in taking the Global Forgiveness Challenge at forgivenesschallenge.com
Brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger founded a platform for social change that includes the international charity, Free The Children, the social enterprise, Me to We, and the youth empowerment movement, We Day.
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