Phew! Glad that's Over!
Just finished an event that I was dreading this morning. I was speaking at the launch of a booklet produced by the Centre for Contemporary Christianity, entitled "Divided Past: Shared Future" which consists of two essays - one by Rev. Professor Nigel Biggar of Christ Church in Oxford, which he originally delivered as the keynote address at the CCCI conference in November 2007 entitled "Divided Past: Shared Future", and the other by me, entitled " Divine and Human: Nurturing a Spirituality and Culture of Forgiveness."
Why was I nervous when I regularly stand up and talk in front of much larger groups of people? Well, for a number of reasons. First because I originally wrote the paper 3 years ago as a part of my sabbatical studies, which I spent as an intern with CCCI. That 3 year gap meant that I am not as conversant with the finely reasoned (?) logic of the essay as I was at the time, but also because the discussion of forgiveness is quite contentious in the context of our local history, especially in the wake of last week's launch of the Eames-Bradley "Consultative Group on Dealing with the Past." Indeed one of the consultative group, Presbyterian colleague, Lesley Carroll, was responding to the document and my initial introduction. Finally, simply because, although I have written other things in the public domain be they articles in magazines and journals, pieces of academic research, other publications as the convener of different committees, plays and shows, and indeed this blog (which I am always amazed and gratified that anyone actually reads), it is the first time my name is actually on the front of a book (and on Amazon amazingly) and even though it is only an essay, for some bizarre reason it messed with my head. I suppose its because I belong to that era when having a book published really meant something.
But I shouldn't have worried. Everything went well and I had a small group of friendly faces - mainly Methodists, ISE Peace and Reconciliation Students and Community Activists to speak to... And Lesley was very kind in her comments on the publication.
So afterwards I breathed a sigh of relief and said "Phew! Glad that's over!"
But actually there is a huge danger that this society in general and the church in particular of doing that in relation to the conflict that we have been through in the past. Trying to forget about it... But such anmesia is only ever temporary, and unless we engage on a process to address some of the underlying problems, we are condemning our children or grandchildren to future outbreaks of violence. The patchwork quilt of partial remembrance tends to fuel the fires of recrimination, which in turn can lead to revenge. The key factor in moving from remembering to real reconciliation is forgiveness: not a case of "forgive and forget" but remember in order that we might forgive.
If you would like a copy of the booklet, please contact the Centre for Contemporary Christianity in Ireland.
ps. I don't get a cut - I got a coffee and a scone out of them, like everyone else attending the launch!