Forgiveness Institute organizes unique conference in Jerusalem Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Dec. 01, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
dr robert enright
Dr. Robert Enright

MADISON -- The Jubilee Year of Mercy may have concluded, but its emphasis on forgiveness will continue in a unique international conference to be held in Jerusalem next summer.

The International  Forgiveness Institute (IFI) headquartered in Madison has been asked to organize the Jerusalem Conference on Forgiveness for Peace, which will be held on July 12 and 13, 2017, at the Pontifical Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center.

“To my knowledge, there has never been an international conference on person-to-person forgiveness in the Middle East,” said Dr. Robert Enright, professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and founding board member of the International Forgiveness Institute.

He is a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Monona.

Two-day conference

He explained that the first day of this two-day conference will concern interfaith dialogue among Jewish, Christian, and Muslim experts discussing what the term “to forgive” means within their own belief system and how that knowledge of forgiveness can be used to enhance and deepen interfaith dialogue.

Internationally known speakers who have agreed to participate include Rabbi Jonathan Sachs, this year’s recipient of the Templeton Prize; Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila in the Philippines and president of Caritas International; and Dr. Mustafa Ceric, grand mufti emeritus of Bosnia.

“All are world-renowned within their own faith communities,” said Dr. Enright.

The second day of the conference will focus on forgiveness education with educators from Belfast, Athens, Lebanon,the U.S., and the Galilee or Jerusalem areas discussing how they implement forgiveness education for children and adolescents.

Open to all

The conference program will include academic presentations, personal testimonies, and opportunities for everyone to contribute their ideas.

The conference is open to all who wish for a deeper understanding of forgiveness across the three Abrahamic faiths and who have an interest in bringing forgiveness to the home, school, and other community organizations.

How it happened

How did the conference come about? In an interview, Dr. Enright said he was in Jerusalem in January getting ready to go to Galilee to do forgiveness education at the Mar Elias Educational Institutions there.

“I was staying at the Pontifical Notre Dame of Jerusalem. Fr. Eamon Kelly was also there, and we started talking about interfaith dialogue. I met with various groups and they thought it was a good idea,” said Dr. Enright.

“They wanted the International Forgiveness Institute to take the lead, since we are not affiliated with any faith and can be neutral.

“We got all the speakers we had on our wish list. Rabbi Sachs had just won the Templeton Prize and Cardinal Tagle talks often on mercy and forgiveness. The number two imam seems to be Dr. Ceric. The first day of the conference fell into place.”

Dr. Enright said the IFI is getting help from Mahmoud Al-Habbash, the Palestinian minister of religious affairs; the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem; and Bishop William Shomali, the auxiliary bishop of Jerusalem, who is helping with fundraising for the conference.

Conference objective: day one

On the first day of the conference, the objective is to better understand what forgiveness is from the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The speakers have been asked to address the following questions:

• What does the term “to forgive” mean in your traditions (what is the definition, or essence of the term)?

• What support is there in your ancient writings for this view of the term “to forgive”?

• What rituals or customs do you have within your tradition for expressing forgiveness toward other people?

• What misunderstandings of your view of the term “to forgive” do you see coming from the other Abrahamic traditions? From people in general?

• How can we use the idea of forgiving to help heal the divide among peoples across the three Abrahamic traditions?

• Is the idea of forgiving communities of interest to you? What might a forgiving community look like?

• How can we take the idea of “to forgive” into our interactions with people from the other two Abrahamic traditions so that healing and healthy interactions can take place?

Conference objective: day two

The objective of the second day of the conference is to better understand what forgiveness education is to bring this knowledge to children and adolescents in school and in the family.

International speakers on the second day will include educators who have been applying forgiveness from different world venues. They include Andrew Frizzell of Northern Ireland, Peli Galiti of Greece, Ramy Taleb of Lebanon, Theodore Kryder of the United States, and one educator to be named from Israel and/or the West Bank.

“This is the ‘how to’ day of the conference including people in the trenches,” said Dr. Enright, who himself has brought forgiveness education to many parts of the world.

He noted that the IFI has built curriculum guides for pre-K through grade 12 eduction to help teachers and parents do forgiveness education.

Belfast in Northern Ireland is one of the places where forgiveness education has been used very successfully, noted Dr. Enright.

The IFI has also developed The Journey of Forgiveness: An Educational Program for Persons at the End of Life, an educational manual designed to help the dying person to forgive. It can be used by any counseling professional. It is based on the process model of forgiveness developed by Dr. Enright.

“We have materials for very young children to the elderly,” said Dr. Enright.

Unique conference

Dr. Enright believes the Jerusalem conference is the first of its kind.

“To my knowledge, there has never been an international conference on person-to-person forgiveness. It has never been put under the microscope like it will be at this conference,” he emphasized.

He said the conference will be an excellent opportunity to continue the dialogue on forgiveness begun during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

“The Latin Patriarch hopes to approach Pope Francis to prepare a video message for the conference,” said Dr. Enright.

He said the conference will be filmed and posted on YouTube. A book will also be prepared on the conference talks.

“We hope to keep this voice for interfaith dialogue on forgiveness going. Forgiveness can’t solve all our problems, but it needs more focus.”

More information

For more information on registering for the conference and options for housing and travel, go to:

Sponsors are also being sought for the conference. For more information, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it