Friday, March 16, 2007


The news is full of sectarian and ethnic violence. In Africa, the Mid-East, and elsewhere, feuds and conflict that have been going on for generations, erupt at the slightest provocation. Despite many social injustices, this country has been relatively free of such conflicts. The reason is that we have a strong culture of forgiveness.

One of the solid Christian principles that has deep roots in American society is the concept of forgiveness. Sometimes it is not easy, but we know that we must forgive others, just has God can forgive us.

Like most Americans, I have an eclectic mix of ancestors. Some members of my distant family had their land stolen from them by order of the U.S. Supreme Court when gold was discovered on their land. The U.S. Army arrested them and forced them to walk from their ancestral homes in Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia to Oklahoma. Thousands died along the way. They were Cherokee and the forced march is now called the “Trail of Tears.” The Cherokee were not savages but rather successful merchants, craftsman, and farmers. This was only about four generations ago, yet the Cherokee have forgiven the United States and are loyal US citizens.

Another part of my distant family came here in colonial days fleeing religious persecution in Europe. It is seldom mentioned that they were Evangelicals fleeing persecution by the Roman Catholic Church and the Catholic controlled governments. That is what was on their minds when the establishment clause was written into the constitution. Evangelical Protestants and Catholics are both forgiving people and this is now considered ancient history.

More recently, my family members came here in search of jobs and land. They left impoverished situations in search of a better life, just as many still do today. Like today, they weren’t necessarily met with open arms. They had to work hard to prove themselves worthy to be called Americans.

Other people were kidnapped from their villages in Africa, put on ships heading to America and sold into slavery. Even though they were freed less than 150 years ago, forgiveness is the order of the day.

Without forgiveness, this country, too, would be embroiled in ethnic and sectarian violence. Just about everybody would have no trouble thinking of a “beef” against their neighbor.

The answer to world peace is easy – forgiveness. People must forgive each other for past atrocities, and keep on forgiving because we are going to keep on treating each other badly.