When Victim Meets Perpetrator: The Question of Atonement and Forgiveness: Buddhist and Christian Reflections, by Ruben L. F. Habito

In our times, the transformative power of such forms of resistance is attested to by figures like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and so many others who have not found their names in the headlines. They remain a truly efficacious source of vision and inspiration that can motivate us to dedicate ourselves for the long haul to the tedious and burdensome yet exhilarating work of liberation from oppression of all sorts. The oppressive elements can be found in the externally observable and analyzable human-made structures that comprise the political, social, economic, ecological, and other dimensions of life as a global society. These oppressive elements can also be found in the internal forum, in our individual and collective psyche, in our received cultural attitudes and ways of seeing, even, or perhaps especially in our religiously motivated habits of mind and of behavior. Wherever these oppressive elements may be located, rather than just passively putting up with them, taking an active stance of resisting them becomes a transformative power, a subversive force that can undermine and hopefully ultimately overcome these prevailing oppressive structures in our public and private lives.

“Forgive, but do not forget,” the Dalai Lama advises us. If this suggestion were to be uttered by anyone else, giving Holocaust survivors “advice” on what to do with the horrendous crimes perpetrated by the Nazis and their allies and supporters against the entire Jewish people and against humanity, it would be dismissed outright. But beholding the stature of the one who is uttering this, and what he and his people have been through and are still struggling with, and how it is costing him and his people, one is more readily disposed to lend an ear.

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