Mending the transAtlantic rift?

July 26, 2004

YOU’RE A TEXAN MARRIED TO A BRAZILIAN. Your twin’s wife is French. Your younger brother married a Swede. Imagine the interesting discussions at family gatherings these days!

Commission reports related to 9/11, Iraq and the war on terrorism are coming thick and fast on both sides of the Atlantic, determining who lied or didn’t lie about what and when, and with what consequences. Party conventions are in the eye of the US media hurricane right now, flooding the world’s television channels with long-range forecasts on the November elections. Emotions continue to be polarised, aided by Michael Moore’s controversial film, Fahrenheit 9/11. And there’s no end in sight to the chaos in Iraq, trans-Atlantic tensions or the domestic discord in the US.

Second-generation YWAMer, Jeff Rogers, of Lindale, Texas, decided to take a first step towards transAtlantic reconciliation after reading a July Fourth article on the CNN website, on why Europeans had lost respect for Americans.

“As a ‘United Nations family’,” writes Jeff, “we’ve had some interesting times of forgiving and asking forgiveness, as you can imagine. Without forgiveness, we would be bitterly divided. By forgiving, we are united, though differing in cultures and opinions. It works for us–it can work for the world.”

So he has begun promoting the idea of a global Forgiveness Day on September 11th through an online petition site, emailing friends and by word of mouth. The ultimate goal of a global Forgiveness Day is to get people around the world to read aloud and adopt a Forgiveness Day Statement on September 11. Jeff believes the ongoing conflicts following September 11th are not just political or military. “They are personal to everyone. Hopefully this Forgiveness Day can help turn our day of bitter mourning, into a time of healing for us and others.”

Jeff has opened a website,, explaining the Forgiveness Day concept, offering various press releases and proposing a Forgiveness Day statement. The website says that the Forgiveness Day “is not a day for political agendas for or against Bush and armed conflict. Nor is it for shallow sentimental expressions without sincerity… It is a day to forgive and be forgiven.” Events like the Abu Ghraib tortures and unintended victims in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are a few of the potential topics for Americans to ask forgiveness for; while terrorist attacks in New York and around the world are some of the things that could be forgiven.

Rogers has had more exposure to the world than most in the Lone Star state. In the ’90’s, he travelled with a YWAM rock band through the Balkans and saw the havoc wreaked by centuries-old feuds and injustices there.

“When I visited the countries of the former Yugoslavia I made friends from each people, Sasha, a Serb; Dado, a Bosnian; Danjela, a Croat, and many others. I loved learning the richness of culture and history of each people. Their land is beautiful, but they are a bitterly broken family.

“The recent conflicts in Kosovo and Bosnia are part of an unbroken chain of violence stretching over hundreds of years. Unforgiveness has fueled the hatred that fueled violence. Before Sarajevo’s siege in the 90’s there were Croatian Yugoslavs joining the Nazi’s to kill Serbian Yugoslavs. Before that a Serb assassinated Archduke Ferdinand and triggered World War I. Every generation has passed the grudges and injustices on to the next.

“The Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics in the former Yugoslavia have all committed atrocities against each other. True forgiveness seems beyond impossible in light of the history. But only forgiveness can break the cycle.”

In Europe, we too easily forget that forgiveness was a necessary component in the rebuilding of post-war Europe, and in the founding of the European Union. The story of Robert Schumann and Konrad Adenauer involved a choice to forgive. Forgiveness has been the basis of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. As Bishop Tutu has repeatedly stated, without reconciliation there is no future.

Perhaps this young Texan is on to something we should all support. Check out the website, and the following Forgiveness Day Statements:

Giving Forgiveness: Without true forgiveness, our hurts and conflicts never heal. Forgiving does not mean the offender was right, or is sorry, or that I should trust them. It does not mean they should not be punished or make amends. Forgiving is a daily choice that says “even though it was wrong, even if I don’t feel like it–I choose to personally let it go. I want to be free from my unforgiveness to have a right attitude of love toward you. I forgive you.”

Asking Forgiveness: Even if I cannot change or amend the wrongs you suffered; even if it was not me personally, but someone else representing me or my people; even if I believe another is also partly at fault–I offer no excuses. For me and my country’s part I humbly ask forgiveness for all of the wrongs committed. I am deeply sorry for the hurt it has caused you. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive.

Rogers would value your constructive feedback on the concept and the site. As he says, these issues are not just political or military. They are personal to everyone.

Till next week,

Jeff Fountain

Till next week,

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