"Remembering Through New Eyes"
Editor's Note: The Foundation for Reconciliation, our partner in Bogota, Colombia, has been named one of three finalists for the National Peace Prize in Colombia for their work developing Reconciliation Centers as strategies for creating a culture of peace in six communities. The award will be announced Nov. 18. The neighborhood centers offer residents gathering spaces, programs addressing pressing community needs, and opportunities to develop innovative new strategies supporting the Political Culture of Forgiveness and Reconciliation for community transformation. The Fetzer Institute congratulates our partners on this prestigious nomination.
A successful program that teaches peace through forgiveness and reconciliation is spreading across Latin America. Under the leadership of Catholic missionary Fr. Leonel Narvaez from Bogotá, Colombia, the Foundation for Reconciliation is implementing a school curriculum based on a three phase methodology—care of oneself, others and environment; social-emotional learning; and forgiveness and reconciliation. The program works with diverse socioeconomic and ethnic populations where violence strongly affects everyday life.
The Fetzer Institute is working with Fundación para la Reconciliación to expand the program from Colombia into four more Latin American countries, then to evaluate—from a perspective specific to each culture—the effectiveness of the curriculum elements that specifically focus on love and forgiveness. The process includes training teachers at seven schools and implementing the program at each school. The additional locations are in Mexico, Peru, Argentina and the Dominican Republic.
“We believe that against the rationality of violence, we have to offer the irrationality of forgiveness and reconciliation,” Narvaez says of his program. “We believe that forgiveness is not forgetting, but rather remembering through new eyes.”
Comments from participants in the program expansion indicate the messages are indeed resonating. “You need to decide whether to lift yourself up, clean yourself off, and move forward or stay trapped forever in that period of time with that pain,” one wrote. Said another: “God has given us the gift of forgiveness, and now we can give that gift of forgiveness.”
Fetzer is also supporting an interactive online platform for nearly 1,000 teachers, staff and parents who are implementing the curriculum. The site will encourage dialogue among the teachers, offer opportunities for reflection and sharing about forgiveness; and provide ways for teachers to share insights from their classroom experiences. A manual on implementing the program will be published at the conclusion of the project.
The program aims to learn more about love and forgiveness by introducing and piloting the program in the seven new sites, making necessary adaptations for each setting and then fully implementing the methodology. School environments are designed to promote peaceful coexistence through a climate of forgiveness and reconciliation, building critical skills for students’ individual development and subsequent positive impact on society.
This is a project of the Fetzer Advisory Council on Humanities.