Forgiveness Across Different Religions

Mark Amstutz

A Professor at Wheaton College

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: You mentioned the common faith of the South Africans as one source of possible reconciliation. It's been used in other cases, Nicaragua among others, not so much the Contras, but I'm thinking of the Nikito Indians and the Sandinistas at the time. What about people who are of a different faiths? Can it still be used as a common ground?

A: I would think that just from my limited understanding of Judaism and Islam as two different faiths, Christianity among the three would be the most demanding of this ethic, Judaism less so and Islam even less so, but even these two faiths, for example, the idea that people matter, that Allah is a loving God, who is a judge, but who is a creator and sustainer of life, and in the case of Judaism the same way. There are some kinds of discourse in the religious traditions which if culled, not in a fundamentalist way, but if you take those principles you can facilitate, I believe, the process of communication, facilitation of this moral discourse. It is more difficult I think if you're dealing with different religions. I tend to see religion, when used properly, as an instrument of healing and reconciliation.

Q: Whatever the denomination?

A: I'll just stick to the three that I'm somewhat familiar with, I don't want to speak about Hinduism or Confucianism or other kinds. At the same time having said that, historically, religions have been a major impediment. The conflict in Northern Ireland has been a conflict between Christians. The Rwanda genocide was a genocide among Christians. That's the empirical reality. What I'm talking about though is that within those traditions there is a moral discourse, which if not manipulated incorrectly could serve as an instrument of healing. I think Desmond Tutu wore his Anglican garb simply to symbolize that he was a man of faith. He was iron-clad on that. Some people asked him not to use it; they wanted to secularize, but he said no. From time to time, Desmond Tutu would pray at the beginning of these truth commission hearings. I think it's testimony to the fact the religion can be a tool for healing and restoration.