. . . at least since October 2010 . . . took place on April 11, 2011.
On the side of the bus, we read that it was from Passaic, New Jersey. The Rev. Vicky Ney, pastor of Springfield Presbyterian Church, had called a few minute earlier to say they were getting close to the United Nations. We sprang into action.
Ricky entered the United Nations to purchase the tickets for their tour. Ryan and I stationed ourselves on the sidewalk outside the building to wait. "This must be our group," we said when we saw the bus.
There were thirty-five in the group, mostly Presbyterians - several of their friends from the Jewis community joined them.
We escorted them through security and into the United Nations. The group was divided into three smaller groups for the tour. After the tour, the group came to the Church Center for the United Nations where they had lunch.
The Rev. Dr. Don Shriver, president emeritus of Union Theological Seminary, joined the group. He made a presentation on the role of forgiveness in public life. Dr. Shriver reminded the group that Romans 3:23 is empirically verifiable: "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
As individuals and as communities we sin. Because we sin, forgiveness is essential to allowing us to move forward - in our personal relationships and in our common life.
Recognizing the need to avoid cheap grace, Dr. Shriver said that what is needed is not "to forgive and to forget" but "to remember and to forgive." The process of forgiveness involves remembering and repenting of evil and misdeeds. True forgiveness - forgiveness which allows us to move forward - can only follow remembrance and repentance. True forgiveness often will involve repair and restoration and reparation for the wrong that has been inflicted.
Drawing on the work of his books An Ethic for Enemies and Honest Patriots, Dr. Shriver cited efforts by Germany to come to terms with evil of the Holocaust and efforts by South Africa to come to terms with the evil of apartheid as examples of countries engaged in the forgiveness process. In Germany and in South Africa, this takes place through monuments and museums, conversations and public events, and in text books.
Dr. Shriver noted that the school curriculum in Germany explores the Holocaust on three occasions. He also recounted a conversation with a student who observed that even after that, there remained much to recall and explore and process.
As he had done with the seminar from the Boston University School of Theology, Dr. Shriver reminded the particpants the need of the United States to remember -- particularly in relation to the exploitation and violation of people of color.
Many of the participants had lived through the Second World War - at least as children - and were moved by Dr. Shriver's presentation. All of us went home with much to ponder.
At the end, Dr. Shriver presented a commercial: he will be featured in a new PBS film on forgiveness. Check your local listings for Forgiveness: A Time to Love and a Time to Hate.
View some additional photos of the seminar.
Contact the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations to schedule a seminar.
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