Wars will go on as long as memory is not modified by forgiveness. 

In his book, “In Praise of Forgetting” American journalist David Rieff tells of his visit with a Serbian politician in 1993.  As he was leaving the interview one of the politicians assistants pressed a piece of paper in his and it was blank except for the date: 1453. This is the year that Orthodox Constantinople was defeated by the Muslim Ottomans. The implication was that the 20th century war in the Balkans was rooted in the wounds inflicted centuries earlier.

We know from the news how centuries-old conflicts are continuing to play out in the Middle East, Rwanda, the Ukraine, and many other places. Mr Rieff suggests in his book that it is the memory of the victims of ancient wars that feed the fires of conflicts today.  He also suggests that the way to move forward with harmony is to learn to forget the violence of the past.

But, I find that forgetting the past, while it is helpful (we would lose our minds if they were filled with all the memories of thing that had happened), it is not easy to do. Life lived lingers within the heart, the bones, the mind. Both blessing and curse gets lodged in the soul. And to forget what has happened in the past is to forget what has shaped our identity—what has influenced our self-understanding.

For this reason, I don’t think forgetting is the best strategy for finding harmony in the future. I believe that forgiving is a more helpful way of getting out of the vicious cycle of revenge. Forgiving another is not forgetting what has happened. It is freedom from the need to be controlled by what has happened. It is freedom to act in a way that can create a future where people who were once enemies might become companions in the shaping of a better world for each. Our memories must be modified by a forgiving spirit if we are to discover hope for a safer world for our children.

I live with the hope that the world will find a way to forgive.