The first World Café of the first day, addressing Peace & Forgiveness, was aptly housed in the crypt of the newly restored Frauenkirche, itself a powerfully vibrant example of peace and reconciliation.
This photograph by the extremely talented Ulrich Soeder captures the sense of intimacy and power in the space, and the conversation under its arches was worthy of the setting.
We started with the question “What is Forgiveness and what does it mean for me personally?” and the ancient stones gave a requisite strength and the stability to hold the mixed emotions and personal vulnerability that was part of the response. One thought that stands out for me from this round was someone saying that forgiveness is like a muscle that must be exercised, like that of courage, which is essential to support the truth-telling that seems to be a pre-requisite to real forgiveness.
The next question, “How do I adopt a more forgiving attitude and support others to do the same?” took the inquiry deeper and in several cases revealed the depth of pain that can come with truth telling. But perhaps, my table wondered, the pain and anger and blame needs to be experienced and ‘burned’ in order to make space for the love and compassion of forgiveness to enter our hearts.
Another response that struck me during this round was the recognition that to forgive means to know and fully accept the whole human experience, and to bestow the grace of forgiveness is both a selfish act of self-interest and a generous expression of love.
The final round, “What can I do with this renewed understanding of forgiveness to help me make the world a more peaceful place?” yielded a wonderful question from our elder, to take us forward into a future: “What new child can be born from the painful stories of the past?”