The Archdeacon of Derry and Rector of Christ Church Londonderry, Ven. Robert Miller, was among those who facilitated a discussion about resilience and forgiveness at the Holywell DiverseCity Community Partnership in Londonderry recently. The event, in Bishop Street, was part of Towards Understanding and Healing’s SEUPB Peace 4-funded ‘Valued Voices Programme.
The session – which was described as “constructive and non-judgemental” – opened with a piece of drama about ‘the past’, performed by mother and daughter Maureen and Shannon Wilkinson. As well as being a well-known local actor, Maureen has lost a loved one to violence in the city.
After the performance, community facilitator Seamus Farrell and Archdeacon Miller offered their own insights around resilience and forgiveness, feeding into a group discussion where all voices were welcomed.
Archdeacon Miller – who has co-authored the book ‘Forgiveness Remembers’ with Father Paul Farren – spoke eloquently about the sometimes “zig-zagging” journey of forgiveness which has followed September’s vandalism at Christchurch. “Faced with the recent devastation in Christchurch, it wasn’t and isn’t easy to forgive the perpetrator,” the Rector said. “But that for me, as a Christian, remains ‘the direction of travel’ even when It’s not easy, even when the journey can lead to wrong turnings.”
Archdeacon Miller said he remained sure that voluntary acts of forgiveness could and did provide solace for the heart and mind for all of us, whether we believed in a God or espoused atheism or humanism.
In his contribution, Seamus Farrell offered the analysis that Gordon Wilson – who was rightly praised for his forgiving nature after the horrific Enniskillen bombing, which killed his daughter and ten others – would never have wanted what he did to become a pressure upon other people. Seamus said, "I know victims who have felt (or actually have been put) under pressure to forgive – using examples such as that of Gordon Wilson – or who have been told to forgive ‘for the sake of peace’.” Victims need to be treated justly, Seamus said. “They need what truth can be uncovered to be uncovered. Victims need society to acknowledge their pain, to help them in every possible way to deal with it, so as to recover their lives and sense of well-being.”
Caption (left to right): Seamus Farrell, Shannon Wilkinson, Maureen Wilkinson and Archdeacon Robert Miller.