The Forgiveness Project compiles stories from individuals who have suffered some of the most atrocious acts and have chosen to forgive their perpetrators, or are in the process of forgiving. It’s puzzling, and also humbling to read their stories. Some admire their courage; others feel that they have betrayed themselves or turned their back to their pasts by choosing to forgive.
The issue of forgiveness and reconciliation is sensitive to groups that have been victimized through genocide and other acts of humanity. There has been much discussion on whether intergroup forgiveness, defined as the ‘reduction of feelings of anger, mistrust, revenge and working towards understanding, approaching members of the perpetrator group’ is necessary for a group to heal, or if it merely becomes a n easy way out, an insult to the memory of a country.
Cehajic et al in their paper Forgive and Forget? Antecedents and Consequences of Intergroup Forgiveness in Bosnia and Herzegovina examined the effects of positive contact and ingroup identification on forgiveness and behavior towards the outgroup. Researchers found that positive contact with the outgroup often yielded more positive perceptions and behavior. This can be because contact increases perceptions of heterogeneity, or being able to distinguish good from bad members. Another factor that positively correlates to a willingness to forgive is common in group identification, or the facilitation of a common identity. The researchers further noted how these findings can help in the formation of public policy for increased understanding and dialogue among groups.