In Timor-Leste in May 2008, I was invited to speak on suffering and forgiveness at an ecumenical conference.
Reflecting on recent events in Timor-Leste, I drew a distinction between an individual’s response to personal violation and that of society. In such circumstances, the motives of an individual who finds it in themselves to forgive are subjective and deeply personal. Somewhat akin to the father who wrapped his arms around his prodigally wasteful son.
That of society as represented by its high officials is of a different order. Leaders have obligations not just to themselves but to the general good of all their citizens and the imperative of standards, laws and objective due process to ensure that society functions well.
I also spoke to the place of ‘apology’ in reconciliation. Withholding ‘sorry’ can be hurtful and damaging to relationships. Offering it freely and genuinely is healing.