“The time for the healing of the wounds has come.
The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.
The time to build is upon us.”
Nelson Mandela 10/5-1994
The speech Nelson Mandela gave in 1994 when he was elected President of South Africa was very much about forgiveness, and this theme is just as relevant today, as it was in 1994. Back then, in South Africa, apartheid divided the world in two colours, and different cultures and believes made it seemingly impossible to ever unite the two worlds. A past of tragic events made it even more unlikely that neither part would ever be able to forget about them, put it all behind and move on.
Our sympathy most likely lie with the Black, and the unfair treatment of them. It’s easy to feel with the suppressed, and indeed it was really unfair. But try for a second to imagine being White back then and having been brought up believing that you were different – and rightfully needed a special treatment. It was simply just the way things were, and how life was presented to you. Perhaps it wasn’t so difficult and abnormal to believe in.
With much the same reasoning, I try to put myself in the shoes of everyone involved in the recent event in Paris, where people were shot dead because of what appears to be just a funny little drawing. If for a moment we don’t focus on the fact that violence and killing are never ever a good solution (period!), and the fact that the drawings could perhaps just be an excuse for violence (and I do realize that these matters often become the main topic, as they infuriate us, and our feelings about them are strong and clear), I believe we’re left with a much bigger issue to find a solution to: How can we resolve problems and live peacefully together, when people around the world fundamentally don’t understand each other?
Because how does freedom of speech live in a world with respect for other peoples’ feeling? What certain people find humorous, other people find deeply insulting. When I look at a satiric drawing, I only think it looks fun, and this is most likely due to my culture. I’m Danish, and here we joke with everything. Nothing is too holy; not our Queen, God (the one we don’t really believe in by the way) or our own mother. Therefore I personally don’t see the big deal, but I know the feeling of feeling insulted, and I do accept that it’s the way certain people will feel about this matter.
When we love and care about someone, we try to be kind and nice to them. This is the opposite of provoking them regardless of whether it was our purpose or just a side effect. Even when we don’t always understand them, we try to accommodate their wishes for a peaceful life for both parts. What a nice strategy. Don’t tease the Bull.
It may sound like I sympathize with the people committing the killings, but this is far from true. I just refrain from expressing my opinion about them. My thoughts, actually, are not so much about a minor group of terrorists’ unacceptable behavior, as much as society as a whole. I do believe in Freedom of Speech. But I also believe in respect towards other people, and especially in things they feel strongly about. What I certainly don’t believe in, is, that the world is black and white, and that we (whoever we are) are always right, and the others are just crazy people.
If we look at the bigger picture, it worries me deeply living in a world, where little respect and comprehension are being shown to one another, and provoking and violent wood is being added to a fire that will become always harder to put out. Hatred is building up and becoming rooted in culture. As I see it, it can end with two things: war or forgiveness. Hopefully the first hasn’t begun. Surely the second will be a Hell lot harder. And this brings me back to Mandela’s words about forgiveness. He was a wise man. May he rest in peace.
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