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To Forgive ... Divine

Documentarian asks if forgiveness is always possible

By Patricia Clarke

Directed by Hilary Pryor
May Street Productions
VisionTV: Oct. 5, 10 p.m. EST

Reena Virk’s parents will never get over their 14-year-old daughter’s murder. But in a few years, they were able to forgive one of their daughter’s killers and help him start a new life.

How is such forgiveness possible? Hilary Pryor, who has had her own struggles to forgive, tries to answer this question in her documentary To Forgive . . . Divine. In the film, she calls on the teachings of four world faiths and the insights of other victims.

She knows forgiveness is at the heart of Christianity. Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,” and cried out on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” But what does it actually mean?

It does not mean that wronging others is okay. It does not mean your action has no consequence. It does not mean reconciliation. Forgiveness is what you do; reconciliation takes two.

It does mean recognizing the other person’s humanity, recognizing what may have made them what they are and that forgiveness may help them on the way to what they should be. Manjit Virk put it that way, speaking of the young man convicted in his daughter’s death. When the attacker recognizes the harm he has done and truly repents, the onus is then on the victim to forgive, Virk says. Though one life is irrevocably lost, another can be redeemed.

Hard to do, and it cannot be forced. But when you succeed, victims say, it’s like having a weight lifted or freeing yourself from chains.

Forgiveness also means recognizing that all of us are flawed. One interviewee, Adam, who lost his mother to Hitler’s Holocaust when he was six, explains it this way. After the war, he was jailed in Pinochet’s Chile as a follower of former president Salvador Allende. But if his side had been in power, would it have behaved differently? Would he have followed orders to torture or kill? “I am grateful,” he says, “not to have been put to that test.”

To Forgive . . . Divine is not a film many people would choose to watch for entertainment, even though the speakers representing the four faiths each make a convincing case. But it would be great for group discussion, either during the broadcast or, if recorded, at a more convenient time.

Patricia Clarke is a writer and editor in Toronto.

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