Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Revenge and forgiveness

A coupla weeks ago, I happened to finish reading two things at the same time: a summary in the CASE Magazine by Linden Fooks of the book by Croatian-American theologian Miroslav Volf: Exclusion and Embrace; and a novel by Sri Lankan author Nihal De Silva: The Far Spent Day. What's interesting about them is: Volf's book is all about forgiveness; De Silva's novel is about revenge. Both authors come from countries torn by ethnic violence - Croatia with the Serbo-Croatian war of 1991-95; Sri Lanka with its thirty-year civil war.

Fooks summarises Volf as saying that:
"... forgiveness is the only way out of the endless cycle of violence and the pay-back of violence. Revenge... is annulled at the cross, wherein we see the greatest example of forgiveness. Forgiveness, however, does not override justice. Forgiveness, by its very nature, implies an obligation, a debt owed to God and others. It tacitly recognises the presence of a just claim."
CASE 21 (2009), p14.
Similarly, De Silva's protagonist Ravi:
"First the memory of Tilak's betrayal helped harden his heart. Then the image of Janaki's broken body flitted across his mind, and as it did, cold, implacable rage began to fill his mind like a cancerous tumour. Shalindra Premasiri had ordered that gruesome killing and now it was his turn to feel some real pain... here he was, seriously contemplating the final, unspeakable obscenity. The day of revenge and retribution was far spent. Was it too far spent for him?"
The Far Spent Day, pp 284, 296
Want to know the answer? You'll have to get the book... :)

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