Love and Forgiveness in Governance: Context

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The Project

The Love and Forgiveness in Governance Project is part of a broad effort by the Fetzer Institute to encourage acts of love and forgiveness in contemporary society. This particular project, which is introduced in the videos on the right by Andrea Bartoli, Dean of the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, explores on the role that love and forgiveness can play in improving governance by identifying and then telling of the stories of exemplary people. We also provide a access to material from the Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base relating to our broad topic.

The Context of Love and Forgiveness Efforts

Today, and since the beginning of history, a principal challenge facing those working to promote human welfare has been figuring out what, exactly, it takes to sustain strong communities focused on advancing the interests of all citizens while resisting those who seek dominance over others. Central to the success of such efforts continues to be the principle of love — "love thy neighbor" in the Christian tradition. Other religions use somewhat different language to support similar ideas.

In a world where nobody is perfect and everyone, from time to time, does things that justifiably anger their neighbors the tradition of forgiveness (or something close to it) is also critically important. Individuals must be able to recover from their mistakes and be re-integrated into the larger society. This is essential to the success of families and other small social units. It is also essential in larger-scale contexts ranging from the local community to international relations.

All of this is part of the larger process of promoting peaceful communities. Not surprisingly, it is common for people to approach the general topic from a range of perspectives many of which are, in one way or another, represented in Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base (into which the Love and Forgiveness in Governance website is integrated). Much of this information is accessible from the Library page.

For example, efforts to promote love are closely related to conceptions of the Integrative Power which binds people together out of a sense of obligation to one another. There are also the concepts of Coexistence and Tolerance which explore ways in which dissimilar communities can live together while retaining their distinct identity. Humanization and Recognition are processes through which enemies come to recognize their common humanity and abandon hostile hatreds. In this context, civil rights can be seen as a legally binding statement of the minimal obligations we owe to one another.

Also commonly considered is the close relationship between Apology and Forgiveness and Amnesty, as well as the search for truth about what is being forgiven often addressed through Truth Commissions or truth and reconciliation processes.

In this context our interest in governance can benefit from ideas like Compromise, Consensus Building, and collaborative governance along with broader moral questions about the relationship between Democracy and Legitimacy and the meaning of the consent of the governed.

Much work has also been done on processes for promoting these ideas, including notions of Conflict Transformation, Reconciliation (and conciliation), Transformative Mediation, and Restorative Justice. Also instructive is a comparison with contrasting approaches to conflict problems involving Adjudication processes, Coercive Power, Retributive Justice, Revenge, and War Crimes Tribunals.

Fetzer Advisory Committee on Governance

Kamel Abu Jaber, Angelina Atyam, Andrea Bartoli, Imam Budidarmawan Prasodjo, Thais Corral, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Emilia Klepacka, Jennifer Llewellyn, Daniel Philpott, Eduard Quiko, Alwi Shihab, Miroslav Volf