Michael Henderson speaks at the launching at Armagh, the centre of Initiatives of Change in Melbourne. In the photo Mike Lowe, chairman of the occasion, and Sulak Sivaraksa who also spoke. A renowned Buddhist leader from Thailand, Sivaraksa is founder of the international Network of Engaged Buddhists who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and in 1994 was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, sometimes called the Alternative Nobel. Both Henderson and Sivaraksa were featured speakers at the Parliament of the World’s Religions (PWR).
At the PWR Henderson shared the platform with Christian ministers from Australia and the USA who were offering ‘practical tools for moving beyond grievance, for healing from the past, and for creating a new future…along with stories that present forgiveness as a powerful tool in conflict resolution.’
An Imam, a Rabbi and Christian leaders spoke at the launch of a new book about forgiveness, held at the St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in the City of London, on 13 May. Mike Smith reports:
No enemy to conquer, subtitled Forgiveness in an unforgiving world, by author and journalist Michael Henderson, was commissioned by an American university press, following his earlier books on the theme of forgiveness.
In his welcoming remarks, Simon Keyes, Director of the St Ethelburga’s Centre, said that Henderson had had ‘a huge influence on the development of our work’ at the centre and that his earlier book Forgiveness—breaking the chain of hate ‘was one of the foundation texts of our work here’. He regarded Henderson as ‘one of our founding fathers’.
The centre, a former church that had been bombed by the IRA, aimed to ‘build bridges in divisions caused by conflict where people can meet as equals,’ Keyes said. ‘Reconciliation is the space where mercy meets conflict and leads to peace.’ And forgiveness was ‘a key element in the exercise of mercy’.
Henderson, who has been long associated with Initiatives of Change, said that one of his aims in writing the new book was ‘to further an appreciation of our brothers and sisters of the Muslim faith’. Read more>>
No Enemy To Conquer was launched at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, DC on June 2. Its author, Michael Henderson, had given evidence for the setting up of the Institute 25 years earlier and congratulated the Congressionally-funded body for its achievements in such a short time.
David Smock, the Institute’s Vice President, one of the contributors to the book, chaired the occasion which had as its theme: ‘A stunningly original strategy?’. Two other contributors, Dr Margaret Smith, adjunct professor at American University, and Joseph Montville, former State Department officer and pioneer of the concept of ‘track 2 diplomacy’, also spoke.
Dr Smith, author of a book on teaching history in Northern Ireland, said that No Enemy To Conquer covered the spectrum of rebuilding relationships, reconciling, trust and new departures in the wake of trauma. The ability to forgive, she said, was linked with a sense of personal empowerment. This was why so many victims who speak of forgiveness ‘are people who engage in some new endeavor of their own to change the world’. She challenged politicians to see their way, as those in Northern Ireland had done, through the thickets of the impossible and ‘believe that those with the profoundest enmities can be brought to the same table and find ways to negotiate and even cooperate’. ‘Politicians who are true visionaries do not lose sight of this possibility,’ she said, ‘and want to make such things happen. The stories told in No Enemy To Conquer can help politicians remain steady in pursuit of that vision, because they see evidence of such things actually happening.’
Joseph Montville said that given the reluctance of political leaders to admit errors citizen action had to prepare the ground for what he calls ‘the acknowledgement – contrition – forgiveness transaction’ that is needed. The book’s strength was that it contained stories which described what real human beings had done. He cited the uniqueness of the public apology by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the Aboriginal people for the way ‘the stolen generation’ had been removed from their families and contrasted that action with Washington’s unofficial rule: ‘Never explain, never apologize.’ Read more>>
No Enemy To Conquer was launched at the Tools for Change - Learning to be Peacemakers conference at Caux, Switzerland, 2009. The theme of this occasion was 'Healing the past'.