Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Love & Forgiveness in Governance

Love & Forgiveness in Governance – Learning from Experience Love and forgiveness are universal values that seem to transcend race, culture, and nationality, making them a central part of what makes us human. 

In view of the above, I find it difficult to talk about forgiveness as if it is something tangible or material. To me forgiveness is the outcome or response to a certain act or omission. It may be done consciously or unconsciously but with the effect of not taking a certain action during a crisis will cause harm or hurt to another person. This act of forgiveness is with us all the time. It can flow from one side to the other or it is simultaneous actions or omissions of two parties. 

Governance, on the other hand, means the person or persons who made up the body created a body to administer the act of governing or exercising authority. To execute the act of governing of exercising authority, I have to look at the options available and ultimately decide which one is the best option to take. 

This can be done through passive or active actions. For example, when questioned, one can explain why one is taking certain specific actions or decide to ignore and not to respond to the party who had done something wrong or harmed you. 

In the case of administering justice, one may not impose the maximum sentence but after weighing all the circumstances, one may decide to mete out a lenient sentence with the hope that that said offender will understand the gesture as a motivation for him or her to change. In summary, these acts or non-acts of governance could be in the form of words, symbolic or a combination of both. 

In a conflict situation, specifically one that involves physical violence, the victims can be the core element with a perpetrator who has a sense of remorse to find a lasting alternative solution. In other words the forgiveness must come from the victims as well as the perpetrator. It cannot be one sided. It can be done on an individual basis, or collectively. 

Perhaps one of the most widely recognized individuals of our times associated with love and forgiveness in governance is none other than Nelson Mandela. Mandela galvanized his country to pursue a path of forgiveness and reconciliation, enabling many to move past the numerous atrocities that occurred during the reign of apartheid. Having been subjected to a total of 27 years in prison, much of which he served on Robben Island, Mandela was uniquely positioned to exemplify the act of love and forgiveness for his fellow compatriots. (Source: Mandela's Life and Times, BBC) 

Mandela was a living proof that leaders must be able to translate their wishes. He or she may also have to exercise influence or use persuasion to gain acceptance by the victims and by the society. The role of political leaders, religious or cultural in this regard is crucial and fundamental. 

Good governance is the key to ensuring that the process of decision making is undertaken in a fair and just manner. The dilemma often faced in this context is to ensure a balance can be struck between attaining discipline and respect for the laws and regulations and avoiding having forgiveness being interpreted as a weakness that will encourage indiscipline and lawlessness. Both elements of deterrence and punishment must be present in forgiveness. 

If governance does not satisfy the characteristics of good governance then it will germinate evil. In my opinion, good governance to me must satisfy the elements of integrity, trustworthiness, responsibility, accountability, transparency and adherence to the rule of law. 

Amnesty can amount to forgiveness, but forgiveness is beyond amnesty, because it is accompanied by values and a sense of mercy and compassion towards others discarding ego. However, this should not be taken to mean that there is no sense of accountability in forgiveness. The wrong doer should understand that there is accountability so as to ensure there will be no repeat of the wrong previously committed. In order for forgiveness to not be considered as biased or prejudiced, it must be advocated by taking into account the feelings and sentiments of the victims. At the same time, it must encourage looking forward to building a future based on love, understanding, trust and goodwill. 

What is the intention of forgiveness? This must be done with a view to start anew and to create a society that is just and fair. This means we have to look at the material dimensions alongside the spiritual fulfillment. It cannot be lopsided. When forgiveness is exercised with a hidden agenda and without sincerity and truthfulness, it is not sustainable and may result in further conflict. 

The other dilemma often confronted is how to create an equilibrium between extremism and moderation while taking into account the political, economics, security and socio-cultural interests and imperatives of the society and nation. Hence, the middle road of moderation plays a key role. 

Forgiveness gives you a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. This contributes to confidence building, understanding, and goodwill individually and collectively, which directly and indirectly provides peace and cohesion at the social level. The saying goes forgive and forget, which brings about reconciliation and social order. These two factors help to establish a conducive environment for maintaining and sustaining personal and societal relationships in a positive and constructive manner. 

There are many factors that lead to the act of forgiveness. This includes the desire to be fair and just, and the feelings of compassion and mercy. Through these factors, love will flow to the individual as well as society. In this context, social cohesion, unity and solidarity will produce a sense of humanity and common bond of love. It will give internal and external strength to the individual, society and nation states to practise and adopt forgiveness as part of their governance. 

Missed opportunities, basically means the failure to take advantage of moments and situations which present itself for reconciliation. This could stem from bias and prejudice due to sentiment of hate and vengeance. Individuals, societies and nation states will not be able to manage love and without love, they cannot manage forgiveness. 

The consequence is no attempt will be made to find a common ground for reconciliation. Thus, it will result in tension and instability; one side will always think that they are doing the right thing. All blame and fault will be placed on the other side. For dialogues and engagements, there must be willingness to be open and to begin discourse without conditions. One mechanism or instrument which can be used is the agency of a facilitator or a third party with who is neutral with no pre-conceived ideas and agendas to bring both sides together. Without a doubt, formal and informal engagements can lead to finding a solution through the platform of forgiveness. It could be done by building bridges of trust, understanding and goodwill. 

In summation, I would like to end by quoting the pearls of wisdom by two distinguished and passionate advocates of love and forgiveness whom I have immense regards for: 

“Hate is the absence of love, any only through love can hatred be removed from the heart. Arguably, the disease of hatred is one of the most devastating forces in the world. But, the force that is infinitely more powerful is love. Love is an attribute of God, hate is not. A name of God mentioned in the Quran is Al-Wadud, the loving one”. (Hamzah Yusoff, 2012:19) 

Desmond Tutu in his book of "Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and our World", said: 
“forgiveness is truly the grace by which we enable another person to get up, and get up with dignity, to begin anew. To not forgive, leads to bitterness and hatred. Like self-hatred and self-contempt, hatred of others gnaws away at our vitals. Whether hatred is projected out or stuffed in, it is always corrosive to the human spirit”. 

Reconciliation can repair and restore relationships and this in return can turn around the various intractable conflicts that we are witnessing in some parts of the world today. 

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