by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner
Bassam Aramin became active in the Palestinian struggle as a boy growing up in Hebron in the West Bank. At 17, he was arrested for planning an attack on Israeli troops, and he spent seven years in prison. He co-founded Combatants for Peace in 2005 (with former Israeli and Palestinian combatants) supporting a non-violent struggle against the occupation. He has remained a peace activist since then even when his ten-year-old daughter Abir was killed by an Israeli soldier two years later. (Story shared here: The Forgiveness Project.)
We are a group of Palestinians and Israelis who have taken an active part in the cycle of violence in our region: Israeli soldiers serving in the IDF and Palestinians as combatants fighting to free their country, Palestine, from the Israeli occupation. We—serving our peoples, raised weapons, which we aimed at each other and saw each other only through gun sights—have established Combatants for Peace on the basis of non-violence principles.’
Founded a year earlier, in 2004, The Forgiveness Project ‘collects and shares stories from individuals and communities who have rebuilt their lives following hurt and trauma.’ In its own words ‘It provides resources and experiences to help people examine and overcome their own unresolved grievances. The testimonies we collect bear witness to the resilience of the human spirit and act as a powerful antidote to narratives of hate and dehumanization, presenting alternatives to cycles of conflict, violence, crime and injustice.’
The Project is based on a belief that ‘restorative narratives have the power to transform lives; not only supporting people to move on from harm or trauma, but also building a climate of tolerance, resilience, hope and empathy.’ It does this on multiple platforms — ‘in publications…, in public conversations, and our award-winning RESTORE prison programme.’
The Project is a secular organization ‘sharing stories from all faiths and none’, believing that ‘stories of forgiveness … demonstrate that forgiveness is first and foremost a personal journey, with no set rules or time limits.’
Sally Kohn’s introduction of Bassam Aramin in her TEDWomen 2017 presentation What We Can Do About the Culture of Hate has received 565,862 views as of today. Combatants for Peace and The Forgiveness Project present useful ways to build trust, the essential element in the transpartisan spirit. Visit their websites to share their experience.