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14 August, 2015

The Beyond Forgiving Initiative aims to further the message of the Beyond Forgiving documentary and utilise the film as a tool to complement existing reconciliation and peace building projects.

London Interfaith CentreOn Tuesday 28 July, Talia Smith visited the London Interfaith Centre to lead a discussion around the film with the Centre’s book group. These days, there is growing attention, research, and literature on forgiveness around. This event was to wind up the groups year’s reading on the topic (books in their series included The Railway Man, The Sunflower and Phil Cousineau’s Beyond Forgiveness). This meeting was with 13 people over lunch at the Centre in Kilburn, London.

Following seeing the film, the group asked Talia some deeper questions about the unlikely pair in the documentary’s story. One question frequently asked is about the rest of Ginn’s family – how do they feel about her collaboration with the man that indirectly killed her daughter?

A number of people in the group picked up on Ginn’s question to Letlapa about whether he believed in god. One lady commented, ‘at first I thought it was quite an antagonistic question, yet later I understood the importance this was for Ginn in allowing Letlapa into her life’. It was noted that Letlapa’s reply to her second question ‘do you believe in spiritualty’ allowed the two protagonists to later move forward and have a common heart despite representing ‘believers’ and ‘non-believers’. Should interfaith groups, such as the London Interfaith Centre, explore this vital commonality?


It was agreed, from watching Beyond Forgiving and also highlighted in many books the group had read, that forgiveness is a complex concept, from both a scientific perspective and a human one. ‘It is also a personal journey, one not dependent on faith’. One participant commented, ‘steps to forgiveness provide a direction, though each journey is different. Some can forgive naturally, others find it a difficult yet rewarding process and for others it just is not an option.’ 

Talia was invited to meet with three staff after the screening to talk about Initiatives of Change, whom they had not heard of before. It appeared there are overlapping projects of IofC and the London Interfaith Centre; the group discussed possible ways the two organisations could collaborate in the future. The conversation flowed to the issue of the rise of extremism and the roles non-for-profit and community organisations have in encouraging integration and providing youth a sense of belonging.

Later that week, Talia visited Hounslow Somali Community and ran a workshop with the film for 14 male youth.

An introduction to IofC was given and the video clip ‘Being the change you wish to see in the world: Four steps for Changemakers’ was shown. Many of the youths were interested in the approach to change IofC uses and the steps to being a changemaker, of which a number considered themselves to be.

Talia led the group through a values exercise; identifying what values they have and which they would like to comprise. When asked what your values are, one person replied ‘this is a deep question, I’ve never thought of my values before’. Another commented on the importance of Ginn and Letlapa’s strong values of a peacemaker (honesty, integrity, humility, courage, and understanding).

The group discussed the implications of Beyond Forgiving locally and in Somalia. ‘We need this film for the young people in our community here, as often you need to forgive people in the community next to you which is challenging.’ Another commented ‘this film is relevant for Somali, although I’m not sure if people are ready to discuss forgiveness yet’.

The group discussed the role of forgiveness in different religions. In Buddhism, forgiveness is a practice for removing unhealthy emotions that would otherwise cause harm to one’s mental well-being, in Christianity The Lord’s Prayer exemplifies this attitude ”And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” and in Islam the Quran quotes “They avoid gross sins and vice, and when angered they forgive.” 

The majority of youth in the group knew their purpose, were empowered and passionate about social change, both in their local communities and in Somalia. All spoke about values with interest and importance. ‘You need to forgive people so you are able to recognise your values and principles’, commented one young man.

Talia hopes to conduct a follow-up session with the group at the end of the year.

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