Time For Forgiveness

End-of-the-Year Statement

TFF PressInfo 83

 December 31, 1999


"This is the founders'end-of-the-year statement and a few highlights of our activities this year. It suggests that TFF will promote reconciliation and forgiveness in the year 2000 and beyond. We suggest this theme because it has been singularly missing in the century and the very decade we are now leaving behind. We agree with Desmond Tutu that there can be no future without forgiveness.

Hope for change and reconciliation are now the lenses through which the future must be imagined. Why? Because, if we let the present global system of violence - against other humans, other cultures and Nature - continue unabated, it is unlikely that there will be anybody around to celebrate New Year 2100.

The wonderful thing about forgiveness, reconciliation and hope is that we have to take the initiative ourselves; they can not be demanded of somebody else. You can't force another human being to forgive you; it comes from inside, from an inner struggle - and it is a struggle of liberation from hate, fear, revenge and worse. Without that the victim's and the perpetrator's life will be miserable.

Millions of times a day, in big and small affairs, we see people all over the world use violence because "that is what 'they' did and - no, it isn't right, but 'they' were the ones who began, we only reciprocated in kind." But remember Gandhi, the towering figure of this century: 'the idea of an eye-for-an-eye will one day make the whole world blind.' This paradigm must be destroyed before it destroys the world.

A better world would emerge if more people took the first step and forgave 'the other'; that other would then say, we reconciliated because 'they' forgave us. Instead of locking each other up in the vicious circle of violence and hate, they liberated themselves through the inner struggle followed by mutual re-conciliation, atonement: at-one-ment. Any normal human being is more proud to have taken the first step toward peace at heart than to have thrown the first stone. One day, perhaps, even the media will focus on the world's peace lords and not only on war lords.

No, none of it is easy. Reconciliation and peace take a lot of preparation and soul-searching and then the miracle happens quickly. With violence it is the opposite: it is easy and quick, it distances us from our souls and hearts; and the repair - if at all possible - may take a lifetime or more.

Next year TFF will continue to churn out ideas, strategies and policy proposals for peace: genuine peace brought about through soft power based on the hearts and brains, not on muscles alone. But we will also continue to criticize human folly, the structures and ways of thinking that maintain violence, injustice, peacelessness and war as an institution - as all of it create so much unnecessary suffering and environmental degradation. Indeed make the world increasingly blind and poor.

And we will continue to highlight the central role in all this of the Western culture - in honour of Gandhi who, when asked what he thought about Western civilization, roguishly answered that that would be a great idea..."

We wish everyone of you a challenging and peaceful New Year 2000.


Lost opportunities since 1989

If the West 'won' the Cold War, the loss of its favorite enemy, the Soviet Union and Communism, deprived it of vital elements of its own identity. Incapable of living without enemies, its depressive side created scores of rogue states, dictators, terrorists, while its manic, messianic side invented grandiose projects: Western-controlled globalization, disciplining interventions, cultural supremacy and renewed militarism. It is a profound paranoia of the privileged - fearing to loose what others rightfully envy them.

Liberalism, human rights and democracy, 'humanitarian' interventions, peace: all this idealism risks turning ugly and disguise that pathology. They signal not the 'end of ideology' but an ideology that brings us to the end. What civilizational grief was all this supposed to cure?

Two Western-based world wars, nuclear bombings and overkill, some 150 wars since 1945, most fought with Western arms, has not persuaded those in power that war as a legitimate social institution must go. Or we must. In 1989 billions yearned for the post-Cold War peace dividend, for justice, for closing the gap between the rich and the poor, for a nuclear-free world and for partnership with Nature - all perfectly possible. Democracy should be the most efficient and least violent to bring us there. But American and other Western leadership has failed abysmally.

No, the West is neither at peace with itself nor the rest of the world. We still see enemies instead of human beings, use control before compassion and try greed before generosity. But we can decide to see the future as a space and time for forgiveness and reconciliation that permits us to build soft power through humility, tolerance and nonviolence. To nations, soft power will open the gateways to hope, freedom and generosity - as powerful as love is to the individual. Peace will then be the melting of the individual with the global.


Soft power is stronger

Mindful of this possibility, economics and politics - theories and practice - must be re-thought and rooted in global care, choice preservation and humility vis-a-vis the larger Whole. There are limits to quantity and materialism, but not to quality and wisdom. We are not saying no to growth, we say yes to another growth that mainstream science, politics and economics ignore.

When everybody claim their human rights, with no parallel sense of human duty, hard power and interventionism will follow. Many human rights organisations do not seem to see that connection.

Human rights must go hand in hand with a generalized duty to not risk the life of humanity by nuclear weapons; to preserve bio-diversity and societal pluralism together with compassion and intuition for the non-human living beings and the yet unborn.

The West itself needs a humanitarian intervention as it needs glasnost and perestroika. It needs to listen and learn, not speak and teach. It needs to reconciliate with itself and the world:

Combine globalization based on talk, hard economics, hard technology and hard information and sold as 'the only alternative' and we may soon witness an authoritarianism à la Nazism or Communism but with a global reach they could only dream of.

Soft power means global development with human beings, Nature and culture as goals and capital, technology, information and organisation as means - not the opposite. It is a safer power in an interdependent world where the mistakes of the few can produce unprecedented catastrophe for all.

Hard power is a zero-sum game and presupposes verticality and violence. Soft power is positive-sum and presupposes co-operation and horizontality: a sharing of weakness and strength.


What about human evil and conflicts?

It is important to learn from the 20th century that violence is rooted less in human evil than in ignored or mismanaged conflicts.

Conflicts are neither good nor bad, they happen. They are problems that reside in the relations between people, in the situation (Kharma) and structure; they tend to manifest themselves when people feel that their deep-seated needs and rights are frustrated.

Not that human evil does not exist. But advocates of the theory of evil invariably deny that they harbour evil. They do good.

If the West is bent on eradicating evil, it will become evil. It will be winning itself to death. The alternative is not to sit idly by or 'do nothing' when people are victimized. It is to use soft power in time. It is to address how the West itself causes suffering and hate. We could learn to attack problems together with people, and not attack people with problems.

Is it so naive to believe that people kill more because they have problems than because they are evil? When we do not understand these problems or respect the people, we kill.


Learning forgiveness and reconciliation

How ignored is 'soul reconstruction' in post-war missions! You can pour any amount of dollars into, say, Kosovo. It will not create peace unless we also do what can not be measured in money terms: deal with the human dimensions of conflicts.

Let's depart from the simple idea that forgiveness is an individual act of freeing oneself from the burden of hate and the desire for/right to revenge.

It also frees, potentially, the other side from the burden of guilt and fear. Reconciliation takes at least two individuals, it aims at achieving something constructive out of a dark, hurtful past. It does not mean forgetting but remembering the past in order to live normally, more fully, in the future. We forgive because we cannot forget. It is entirely different from money, weapons, laws, or human rights training. And it is foreign to power- and policy makers at large.

Simple truth is: we do not know how to help people do it. The West itself does not know how to move from punitive to restorative justice, from imposed technical 'aid' to spiritual, mutual learning - or at least create a better balance. The West has a lot to learn about soul reconstruction from, say, Buddhism, healing traditions in Africa, and Gandhianism. Will it know?

Violence and war is humiliation. The perpetrator and the victim are deeply connected, usually in a Devil's account: you hurt me, I have a right to hate and get revenge. Sometimes it is an obsession: the 'wild' revenge is as unfreeing as the 'wild' offence. The hater becomes his hate and when sweet revenge is consummated, he is tragic: he is nobody.

Forgiveness and reconciliation set the parties free from this, usually through a process of truth-seeking, recognition of the bad deeds, perhaps repentance and soul-searching. It comes from inside, forgiveness can be forced.

Reconciliation means 'calling a council again.' Atonement is another, older expression: being at-one. The process empowers the parties; the underlying generosity is actualized. We can get on with a better future than the one based on permanent hate, fear, guilt and lies.

In this perspective, the acceptance of the victim's right to limitless hate and revenge is misguided compassion. Indeed, it delivers us an inhuman society.

The civilized society under-stands the victims' desire for revenge but encourages them - and the perpetrators - to patiently work their way from the dark past to a brighter future, live with what happened and, eventually, seek soft power together with their former enemies - at-one-ment.

Therein lies a seldom beauty.

Gandhi who continues to be a daily inspiration at the foundation has summarized it all succinctly - that the principle of an eye for an eye will one day make the whole world blind. A new soft power may help us avoid that.

Time For Forgiveness is now a revolving theme in TFF's work and vision beyond the year 2000. Look at the highlights of what we have achieved since mid-1998. We hope you will continue your support or join us in this our mission.


The founders

Christina Spännar & Jan Oberg



Highlights of TFF 1998-1999


The last eighteen months have seen 8 publications from the foundation: 1) Violence, Post-War Reconstruction and Civil Society. Theory and Yugoslavia; 2) Peace Prevention. Sixty Examples of Conflict Mismanagement in former Yugoslavia since 1991; 3) The World Needs Reconciliation and Forgiveness Centres; 4) From Agenda for Peace to UNMIK in Kosovo. Plus chapters in books: 5) Peace Work for the Next Millennium; Reconciliation in Global Perspective; 6) Peace Bombs over the Balkans (in Swedish); 7) Conflict and Reconciliation (in Danish) and 8) The Future of the United Nations System.

We have conducted five missions (conflict-analysis, mitigation and peace education) to the Balkans; one to Burundi and smaller study visits to Ireland and Northern Cyprus.

We continue co-operation about teaching programs with the European Peace University in Schlaining, Austria; with the International University for People's Initiative for Peace, IUPIP, Italy; and with Transcend and the Peace and Development Institute in Geneva.

TFF continued working in Eastern Slavonia, Croatia and has networked with NGOs, teachers and media people to set up a Citizens Network with two major projects now run by the locals and financed by the Council of Europe.

We were in Kosovo/a and Belgrade right before the bombings - and in Belgrade and Novi Sad during them; TFF was the first to analyse the real content of the Rambouillet Dictate. We managed to reach the state-controlled and free media in Serbia during the bombing and visited Kosovo/a soon after the UN and NATO had moved in.

During the war, TFF associates gave over 100 interviews from Japanese TV to CNN, local radio stations and newspapers on all continents. Hundreds of articles and comments were produced by the foundation associates. Its website had up to 1500 visitors per day during the crisis.

The TFF/TRANSCEND event at the Hague Peace Appeal Conference had one of the largest audiences (but left out in the official report).

Since mid-1998, the foundation has sent out 40 TFF PressInfos - the free, email service containing pointed criticism, analyses and peace proposals. Now 7000 direct subscribers and twice as many readers around the world. is now a major, lively site in the trade, 700 documents, about 350 visitors a day (we had 10 in 1997 !), updated every week. Two new features have been introduced: Peace Browser that tells you what is on the site, and the Transnational WIRE that points you to the the most interesting stuff on Internet - with our comments.

We have added a new program country, Burundi - intent on helping its ministry of education set up peace research and its NGOs to develop further peace and reconciliation education.

We are honoured and happy that 12 new advisers have joined us.

We have established a new unit, the TFF Peace Antennas: young scholars and NGO peace workers who have shown extraordinary commitment and activity in fields related to that of TFF, and whom we hope to recruit into the foundation's work.

And we have decided to make Time For Forgiveness and reconciliation an overarching theme for the year 2000.

We want to thank the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its annual organisational grant to the equivalent of US $ 35.000 and Soka Gakkai International for its generous grant of US $ 10.000 a year 1996 and 2001.

All we do for peace in a year cost about 2 per cent of the price of a single cruise missile. And we do no harm...














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