Justice or Forgiveness?

by June on Wednesday, 16 January 2008 Comments
As an individual, to forgive is not easy task. It might be even harder when it comes to a group or a nation. Can a group as a whole forgive? In which ways can it undergo the process to grieve, forgive and start again? And what are the effects of collective forgiveness?

This question runs throughout the history of ethnic groups and nations. Our history is filled with violence, injustice and oppression. After a breakthrough has occurred that signals the end of an era and the beginning of another, history comes to haunt again our memories and, possibly, poison our relationships.

The question of forgiveness is now looming large in the Taiwanese debate. Taiwan’s history has been filled with traumatic events, but the nation has done remarkably well, in the last twenty years, for building up a new social contract. So well in fact that the transition has been almost too smooth for confronting past events in a way that would have allowed Taiwan to start anew. So, debates on past history are still vibrant. Sometimes they are manipulated. This does not mean that the relationship of Taiwan to its own history does not remain a real, largely unsolved, issue.

Can the reflection on “forgiveness” help to heal some of Taiwan’s wound? This is the topic explored by this issue of Renlai. However, we do not wish “forgiveness” to be confounded with “forgetfulness”. We have decided to confront three major questions that go along the promotion of “forgiveness” as a value:
- Forgiveness and repentance: can one forgive someone who is one repentant? And how to phrase the question when one goes from the personal to the collective realm?
- Forgiveness as a cultural and spiritual value: what are the resources within Chinese culture on the one hand, and various spiritual traditions on the other hand that can foster and enrich Taiwan’s approach to forgiveness? Can forgiveness become a resource that truly shapes Taiwan’s future?
- Forgiveness and rituals: A group needs collective expression of its state of mind, of the relationships that shape its health. Ceremonies, rituals and symbols help all of us to feel as a group, and to understand that our history is now shared by all of us, whatever the sufferings of the past. What kind of rituals are needed for helping all of us to forgive and to start anew?

As Taiwan is again entering a difficult time in the shaping of its political culture, we hope to be able to help everyone to take some distance from the endless flow of information and polemics and to enter into a common reflection on the fate of Taiwan’s democracy.

Read Benoit Vermander’s article

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