Judaism: Redemption will come to the Jews only by means of teshuva (the forgiveness we seek and grant).
Islam: Show forgiveness, enjoin kindness, avoid ignorance.
Christianity: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in God forgave you.
Buddhism: To understand everything is to forgive everything.
Jews, Christians, Muslims and Buddhists came together in our incredibly diverse interfaith community for an extraordinary journey into forgiveness, The Art of Forgiveness, an interfaith forum, brought together by Temple Beth-El of Great Neck on Sunday Nov. 13.
Blondelle Coakley Gadsden shared her experience and perspective of the reckless shooting in North Carolina last year. Gadsden’s sister was among the nine victims who died in the shooting. She has taken a journey in search for forgiveness. “It is not easy,” she said. “Forgiving is for ourselves, so that we can move on and become whole again.”
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin took a very different approach from Gadsden. He maintained that love empowers us and can penetrate everything. He insisted that we should always love, but should not so easily forgive, unless the other party who commits harm repents sincerely.
Professor Chen Hua Lee from Taiwan is a devoted Buddhist. He told stories of the people from his mother’s village in Shandong Province during the Japanese’s invasion, which is a part of Chinese history that has been retold in many Chinese books, movies and in popular culture. Professor Lee recalled a story where the village people chose to take care of innocent Japanese babies left by the Japanese troops after their retreat. He reminded me that the ultimate humanity in them was humbling.
Other discussion topics and questions were raised: “Can we love even before we can forgive?” “Is forgiving a process whose ultimate purpose is to free ourselves so that we can move on?” “How can we forgive without forgetting? and many more.
There were heated discussions and exchanges of views between those points. Perhaps everyone’s ultimate goal for forgiveness is similar, but we each might take a different path to arrive there. After the program was over, as I walked out of Temple Beth-El’s grand, ancient door, I left with more questions than when I entered. Yet, I felt more confident and comfortable because I was offered means to seek harmony and to live with doubt and uncertainly.
The forum came just a few days after the raucous presidential election, which left this country more divided than ever. It is a time when we need to resort to our own effort and strive to achieve inner peace. A little forgiveness towards others and even yourself will definitely help toward achieving this goal. The forum provided me with a channel and demonstrated to me the resilience in us that will enable us to work out ways to forgive, to sympathize, to love and to embrace the world around us.
Read more and see pictures of the event at “Learning Forgiveness At Interfaith Symposium.”