Name of resource (or tagline heading)                 Love and Forgiveness – a practical example -                    Rela...
Finally she wishes the policeman to know that she has forgiven him, as Jesus died toforgive. This was also her husband’s w...
Sri Chinmoy,                      Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 20, Agni Press, 1981.                          (http://...
This exercise takes about 10 to 15 minutes and there is pindrop silence even withclasses who can be restless and difficult...
These issues need to be explored and addressed if such pupils are to come to aposition in which they can really forgive an...
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Resource on love and forgiveness extended to include role-play exercise

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This is a resource I shared on the TES site but it is not just useful for teachers. The issues or love and forgiveness, happiness and peace, justice and retribution, suffering and redemption are universal. They belong to the field of religion and spirituality - but they transcend all boundaries.

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Resource on love and forgiveness extended to include role-play exercise

  1. 1. Name of resource (or tagline heading) Love and Forgiveness – a practical example - Related to South Africa and Apartheid,1 sentence introduction -including the contributors nameThis resource was created by Dom7777777, specialist RE teacher, on 30thDecember 2011.There are three youtube videos listed in this resource, all excellent, but the one Iparticularly recommend is the first in this group, which tells the story of a SouthAfrican woman whose son and husband were killed during the apartheid times (by apoliceman who in this video is now in the dock) in a simple and deeply moving way.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSTvEi8gzos&context=C3af1bacADOEgsToPDskI_FYK1-sKv4kY3vZdbd6f7Who is it for?This would be a good resource to use with pupils from year 9 upwards, exploringsubjects such as Suffering, Peace and Conflict, Love in action and Forgiveness.(Theother two video links provided would be good to use with younger KS3 classes, but Iwould not advise using the one about South Africa with years 7 or 8.How does it work?The video lasts for 5 ½ minutes. With reflective music and a background which isdark and abstract. The story is told in white text which appears and disappears quiteslowly, giving the viewer time to read and reflect on it.The story is a true one, about a woman living in a black ghetto during apartheid inSouth Africa. One day her son was taken by this policeman and shot. Later the samepoliceman returned and abducted her husband, years later he came and took her tosee her husband, beaten and bound, but before she could reach him, he was thenburned to death before her eyes. His last words were, ‘Father, Forgive them.’In the courtroom, after hearing the policeman confess to these murders, the oldwoman was asked what is to be done with the man who killed her family, how shewould like justice to be carried out.The old woman said that she wished for three things. Firstly she wishes to be takento the place where her husband was burned so that she can gather up his dust andgive him a decent burial.Then, since her son and husband were her only family, she wishes the policeman tobecome her son and visit her in the ghetto twice a month to spend the day with her,so she can give him what remains of her love.
  2. 2. Finally she wishes the policeman to know that she has forgiven him, as Jesus died toforgive. This was also her husband’s wish. She asks someone to escort her acrossthe court-room so she can embrace the policeman and let him know that he isforgiven.As she goes across to him, escorted by court officials, all those in the room, friendsand family, neighbours and others who have suffered decades of pain and injustice,start to sing, softly, ‘Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch likeme.’Why is it useful?The reason why this video is so useful is because it shows the power of forgiveness– in an extreme example. We all have issues which we need to forgive and beforgiven for, if we are to find peace and happiness. We have all ‘done wrong’ and wehave all also experienced injustice.We can learn about forgiveness at a distance, in a theoretical way, but this onlytouches AT1. The real power of RE is when we see how the theory works in practise.Many Christians believe that Jesus died to forgive the sins of everyone. In this storythe reality of how that can empower a Christian and play out in their life, is madeexplicit. And that enables us to connect with the theory and for our pupils to link theirown lives with the issue.It is much easier to ‘learn about’ issues like forgiveness, than to ‘learn from’ them, soI particularly value resources such as this one, which help teachers to access theAT2 aspect of RE – and helps our pupil’s to make an inner emotional or spiritualconnection with the material in question.This video is so powerful because through it we can identify with an extremeexample of the redemptive power of forgiveness – and the way that faith givessomeone the strength and inspiration to do something that would seem otherwisequite impossible.What do teachers say (TES reviews)?The only TES Review for this resource, is my own. I gave it a five star rating andcommented – ‘Some great video resources here. The first one in particular issuperb. It made me cry - so add a box of tissues to the resources if you are planningto use it in class! (durgamata 7th Feb)What else?There is a poem I sometimes use when exploring the subject of love andforgiveness – and in my view/experience it is not possible to separate these twoqualities or issues as they feed into each other so strongly. The poem is: Love, Love the world. Otherwise, you will be forced To carry the heaviest load: Your own bitter self.
  3. 3. Sri Chinmoy, Ten Thousand Flower-Flames, Part 20, Agni Press, 1981. (http://www.srichinmoylibrary.com/books/0448/8)This poem suggests to readers that not only are love and forgiveness the ‘right’things to do - in a moral sense – but they are also necessary if we wish to be freedfrom suffering. There is a certain element of ‘enlightened self-interest’ at work here.Forgiveness is not just the right thing to do, but the wise thing, too, if we wish to befreed from past injustice and able to move on with our lives.Bitterness is crippling. This is something else which we could explore in the lesson,to engage with our pupil’s own experiences and make the learning reallyempowering and even transformational.Another strategy I use in teaching about forgiveness, sometimes when looking at theJewish festival of Yom Kippur and on other occasions when teaching a unit onSuffering, on Peace and Conflict or on issues of justice, is an adaption of somethingSue Philips modelled in a workshop I attended some years ago.In some parts of the Middle East there is a tradition which Jews follow during YomKippur, in which they go to a river and pick up a stone. They look at this stone andthink of all the things that they have done wrong in the past year, things for whichthey feel the need to be forgiven. Then, using their imagination, they ‘put’ theseissues into the stone.Then they think of all the things that other people have done to them or those whoare near and dear to them, which have caused hurt or harm – things that they needto forgive – and again, using their imagination, they place these things into the stone.When this visualisation is clearly and strongly established they place the stone in theriver, where the water flowing past can dissolve away these issues and wash themaway into oblivion.Having explained this to my class, I bring a bowl of water and place it in the middle ofthe classroom. (As far as possible the seating is arranged facing in towards thiscentral point.) Then I ask my pupils to look underneath their chairs. Before the lessonI have placed a stone under each chair. I ask them to take the stone and look at itwhile thinking of all the things in their life that they may regret doing or saying andfeel that they may need forgiveness for. Then to think of all the things that anyone, amember of their family, a friend or neighbour, someone in the school, a teacher,anyone at all in their lives, may have done that has caused suffering. Think of all thepeople they know who may benefit from forgiving. This can extend to people whothey have heard of in the news.As they think of each thing for which they may need forgiveness of the capacity toforgive, the pupils use their imaginations to ‘put those things into the stone.’ Andwhen they have done this in a strong way, they can, in their own time, get up and goover to the bowl, where they place the stone under the water so that all those thingscan be dissolved and washed away.
  4. 4. This exercise takes about 10 to 15 minutes and there is pindrop silence even withclasses who can be restless and difficult to discipline. After this I like to give thepupils time to write about the exercise and their experience in doing it. But with someclasses who find written work difficult, we discuss the experience together and I askthem to write it up as homework, since they may need more time.When exploring forgiveness in the classroom, using this kind of role-playengagement with their own experiences - approach, pupils sometimes respond withgreat joy and relief as they feel that the exercise really made a difference. Othersmay say that they tried to do it but the problem is still there. Sometimes a pupil willsee me afterwards to say that there are certain things that they simply could neverforgive – or that there are some things that they don’t even want to forgive. Whenyou get this kind of feedback you know that you really are engaging the pupils andworking on AT2, but how can you support them in this greater awareness when itraises problems of things that can’t be forgiven?This video shakes the concept of there being some things that are ‘too bad toforgive’ to the core. As finite human beings we can see that this may be true, butwith the power that comes with faith, there is nothing impossible. If our pupils dohave a faith, they can be encouraged to offer the problems to God in their prayers. Ifthey don’t have faith then they can be encouraged to find someone who they can talkto about the situation.The video opens up a very important aspect relating to real engagement withforgiveness. Could the old woman have forgiven the policeman if he had notconfessed to what he had done – or if his actions had not been made public likethis?What part did the love and support of her community play in this, illustrated sobeautifully by the way that they spontaneously started to sing together, ‘AmazingGrace’ as she went across the room to embrace the policeman?The video also mentions that the policeman collapsed as she came across to him.What effect may the words of the song, ‘Amazing Grace how sweet the sound thatsaved a wretch like me’ have had on this man – as forced by the pressure of publicopinion under the new government – he had been driven to confess to the murders –something which he must have found very difficult – and then, as he expected justicein the form of punishment, found that the woman wanted to accept him as her son?Does this inform the experiences of injustice and forgiveness which our pupils maybring to the classroom? Have they ever experienced the support of a community,peer group or family perhaps, when they have been wronged or when someone haswronged them?Those pupils who say that they don’t even want to forgive someone, or that nomatter how hard they try there are some things that they seem not to be able toforgive, may never have been in a safe enough place, with people they trustedenough who would listen, so that they could say what they were suffering. They maynever have experienced the emotional and spiritual support of a loving community inthe way that the woman in this story was supported.
  5. 5. These issues need to be explored and addressed if such pupils are to come to aposition in which they can really forgive and move on.In RE classes it is not necessary to get into the detail but it can be helpful to point outthat this kind of confidential listening is often needed when something really bad hashappened – and there are people who can help. The whole class can be givendetails of pastoral support within school or given the contact number for Child-Line,for example. Whether or not this is required and followed up, the whole subject of REwill have become more relevant and more real. It will have come out of the textbookand into the lives of real people in our world today – relevant to our pupils andtouching their own experiences and their own lives – and that gets to the heart ofwhat RE is all about.Include a link to the resourceLove and Forgiveness – a practical example -South Africa Apartheid,http://www.tes.co.uk/ResourceDetail.aspx?storyCode=6160480

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