A course in Forgiveness: creating a path to peace in oneself and the world.
Learning from the lived experience of Rwandans with John Steward PhD.
Forgiveness is central to the Christian tradition, and its spiritual, ethical and psychological importance is evident in the teachings of many religious and philosophical traditions.
Scientific study of forgiveness over the last 30 years has testified to the social and psychological benefits of forgiveness – not just as an antidote to resentment (which can drive cycles of interpersonal and inter-group conflict) but in counteracting a number of unwholesome psychological states. In the last few years the field has extended to examine the importance of self-forgiveness.
In this context and in collaboration with The Contemplary, the CCS is delighted to be offering an eight-week online course, titled To Live Well, created and led by John Steward PhD. This is the second such course offered in Australia and we are grateful to our first cohort of participants whose feedback has led to the extension of the course to its current eight week, three hour a week format.
To Live Well provides an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the processes involved in forgiveness of self and others, inspired and resourced by the lived experience of Rwandans.
Following that country’s experience of genocide and defying expert predictions, the processes of forgiveness revealed a hitherto unanticipated potential for peace-building, reconciliation and healing. After 20 years of part-time experience, mentoring healers and peace-builders in Rwanda, John pondered the question: Is this process of healing and change only for Rwandans?
His response was to draw together inspiring and remarkable stories of transformation and recovery in a publication called From Genocide to Generosity. Based on this publication, John then created the To Live Well course, providing a valuable opportunity for people to come together to study and reflect upon insights from Rwandans, and in this way to experience the impact of stories of healing, forgiveness and living generously, on our own capacity to live well. The course will assist participants to review the impact of emotions in our own stories and consider how to forgive our self, before looking at options for peaceful acts of justice and healthy relationships with others.
The Course Structure
Participants will meet weekly for three hours to:
- Create a safe space to share something of their personal story
- Reflect on our experiences of grief and loss, and consider how to move ahead in life without ignoring the difficult events
- Observe the role of our emotions, how we relate to our feelings and their impact on our communicating with others.
- Explore forgiveness and how it works.
- Consider the challenges of reconciliation, and why it is so rare.
In a gentle, guided process, each participant will find food for thought and action that may offer personal benefits and sharpen life skills. All along the way the stories of human change and recovery from Rwanda will accompany participants and offer guidance and encouragement.
Quotes from participants:
“The fields of human relations, intergroup relations and interreligious relations are full of eloquent exhortation to mend fences, build bridges, get along, and practice mutual respect. High-minded speech does not get someone there. In my work many ask, ‘Yes, but how do I do this?’ To Live Well offers a manageable, engaging and very helpful approach to both learning and applying the skills that promote living well together even following times of deep pain and hurt. I recommend it with enthusiasm and without reservation.” – Emeritus Professor, The Rev’d Gary D Bouma, UNESCO Chair in Interreligious and Intercultural Relations – Asia Pacific. Monash University.
“The challenge to me was in holding up the mirror to myself, my thoughts and my feelings around forgiveness, and how my actions impact others.”
“I can see huge potential for those who have a willingness to explore ways of taking opportunities to create a more peaceful world.”
“It gives a path to peace, and tools and strategies to make the principles practical.”
“It gives the courage to live with emotional intelligence and to be your best self.”
John Steward has been a theology teacher, agricultural advisor, community development trainer, freelance writer and speaker, and a mentor of peacebuilders. He has lived in Australia, Indonesia and Rwanda, and has trained aid workers from 50 countries. His passion for change grew out of life experiences that challenged his beliefs and attitudes. John seeks to inspire us through his conviction that to find peace in our world we must first be at peace in ourselves. Rwandans have taught him about the hard work to find peace after personal grief and profound community disintegration. When the problems of our world get him down John meditates, enjoys Victoria, visits his grandchildren in South Gippsland and volunteers in the Cranbourne Australian gardens.
Please email the Centre if you would like to be notified when the course will be next offered.