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The Path To Peace


South Africa's Nelson Mandela, FW DeKlerk and Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

It has been said that if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. But there is one historical pattern that we would be wise to repeat: national forgiveness.

Nations typically evolve from friction. The United States birthed from revolution. Canada pulled away from colonial rule. Mexico fought for independence from Spain. But each of these countries, over time, sought reconciliation with their former enemies.

Before reconciliation is possible, however, forgiveness must be extended. Only after a genuine purge of resentment and bitterness -- the results of pain -- can two groups of people peacefully restore relations.

Within a few generations, Americans forgave England for its perceived oppression and England forgave America for its perceived rebellion. Soon, the two countries fought in a war side by side against a common enemy -- not once, but twice. Within a single generation, conquered Germany became a friend, largely because the Allies extended grace and forgiveness, even while pursuing justice, to the good people of the former Nazi regime.

Even Japan, which suffered a tremendous loss of honor and human life as the target of the only atomic bombs ever dropped, quickly became a true ally of the United States, Britain, Australia, and other one-time enemies. Though many Japanese citizens still bear the physical scars of their national nightmare, forgiveness enabled emotional healing on a nationwide level. While never forgetting the shock and pain of Pearl Harbor, the United States has not only forgiven Japan, but also supports their technology and craftsmanship through the free market.

Perhaps the most poignant illustration of modern-day forgiveness and reconciliation lies in the racial, religious, and class divides that nearly ripped apart the nation of South Africa. Apartheid crushed a bloody tribal territory with the heavy boot of oppression, which then gave rise to a people's revolution that witnessed atrocities committed not by just one or two sides, but by three. The ruling white party, Nelson Mandela's freedom fighters and the Zulu Nation engaged in guerilla warfare for years before they finally constructed a framework for peace. Even today, pockets of resentment and violence exist, but the overall stability of the nation has prevailed for one reason: all three parties agreed, for the most part, to forgive the aggression of the past and work together for the peace of the future. 

Our missionary partner in Africa, Peter Pretorius (who came out of the ruling white class to dedicate his life to help dying people all across southern Africa), said that it was only through forgiveness that his country was spared an all-out, multi-partied civil war. F.W. DeKlerk, Nelson Mandela and Chief Buthelezi set the example for forgiveness and brought about the reconciliation of what is arguably the strongest country on the continent.

Once again, our world faces a future yearning for forgiveness. In Iraq, the Kurds, Sunni and Shia, must begin engaging in nationwide forgiveness. Certainly vengeance seems justified in some cases, but it must be replaced with a justice system that remedies the need for mob action or vigilantism. Strong, stable governments must rightly defend freedom, protect the innocent, and bring perpetrators of evil to justice.

Israel and Palestine must find a way to forgive each other for so many years of war and death. Otherwise, there will be no end to their pain and the instability that has plagued the Middle East will continue to fester. Each side radically defends their position and describes the pain they have endured, but choosing sides will not contribute to necessary forgiveness or bring peace.

The Muslim doctrine of murder and vengeance must be exchanged for divine reconciliation with the understanding that every single person has, at some time, committed some act of injury to another. If we are to be judged and sentenced for our offenses, then we are all guilty and subject to payback.

Every act in which we engage as a nation should work toward this goal of reconciliation. But we must first acknowledge that without forgiveness for past misdeeds, there is no way to secure a peaceful future.

Author: James Robison

Word Count: 675

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host of the television program, Life Today; and author of The Absolutes.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.



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