While I appreciate the focus on African countries in transition from violence to peace in the Oct. 23-26 series, "Africa After War: Paths to Forgiveness," I am troubled that "forgiveness" was employed to characterize these transitions. Both during and after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, the TRC was taken to task for its reliance on an overwhelmingly Christian view of forgiveness and its willingness to shape victims' and survivors' stories into narratives of forgiveness. To see the Monitor do the same in an in-depth set of stories such as this is disappointing.
Transitional justice mechanisms – and their outcomes – are incredibly complex. To characterize the postconflict landscape that transitional societies face as a simple choice between "forgiveness" and "punishment" is sloppy shorthand, and to assume a link between forgiveness and reconciliation is deeply misinformed.
Courtney E. Cole
Kudos to the writer and photographer of the wonderful Oct. 23-26 series about four African countries working toward peace. In a time of high-profile conflict and violence, the series is a welcome reminder of alternative ways to peace and reconciliation.
I would especially like to compliment the photographer for her pictures in the Oct. 24 article, "Why Jeannette employs her family's killers." The shot of Jeannette Nyirabaganwa shaking hands but not making eye contact with Anastaz Turimubakunzi perfectly captures the ambivalence with which she has forgiven the man who killed members of her family. The close-ups of Mr. Turimubakunzi show his remorse so plainly, and they remind us that violence has a negative effect on the perpetrator as well as the victim. If a picture says a thousand words, I marvel at how many words these pictures are saying.
Takoma Park, Md.
Thank you for the Oct. 23-26 Paths to Forgiveness series, especially the Oct. 24 article on Rwanda. After reading Immaculee Ilibagiza's book, "Left To Tell," describing her survival as a Tutsi and her forgiveness of the Hutus, I had often wondered how the Hutus could live with the mind-boggling atrocities they had committed. The pictures of the Rwandan Hutu faces showed it all – such pain, dejection, and despair. I felt a great deal of encouragement that these particular Hutus regretted their actions.
Regarding the Oct. 30 article, "As 'goblins' knock, evangelicals answer the door": I wonder what the response would be to an atheist who handed out skeptical literature to trick-or-treaters? Atheists usually don't believe in any supernatural phenomena, so they would have as much reason to do this as a Christian. As an atheist myself, I would agree with anyone who says that this kind of evangelism is out of line. I don't think adults should take advantage of children, who just want to have fun, in an effort to spread their own opinions or beliefs.
I wish the people who are doing this kind of evangelism would take a moment and try to see their actions more objectively. Their religion is only true to them because they believe it to be. But people who have other philosophies are just as certain that theirs are correct. We should all have a bit more tolerance and not try to push our beliefs on others unsolicited – especially when it comes to impressionable children. If it's not OK for one group to do it, it's not OK for anyone.
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