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Forgiveness and reconciliation

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That first Noel was a paradigm shift; as Jesus' birth saw the era of “an eye for an eye” being challenged by Christ's Gospel of unconditional love. Hence Christmas is an opportune time to reflect on forgiveness and its counterpart reconciliation.

Given the crisis over this past year, it would be useful to reflect on these. In a series of dialogues on the cycle of violence, organised by Imagine, clergy agreed in October, to use the theme: “To Err is Human.”

Reminding ourselves that we all make mistakes is a prerequisite to exploring the breakdown in our community. Humility nurtures connections, making it easier to forgive. The young Jesus challenged the status quo of the time, with love, offering an archetype for becoming the author of one's own story. However, even He overturned tables of merchants in the Temple.

The Wise Men carried gifts to the baby Jesus, beginning a Christmas tradition; speaking to the wisdom of sharing. Months ago, I met a young man and I believe that we clicked because I shared some stories of my mistakes and crises; chapters from my youth. This led him to share some of his story, including imprisonment and other difficulties. There is mutual benefit from sharing these “gifts”. That gave me the idea to publish some of my stories, letting the upcoming generation know that their elders are human too. This transparency may hopefully inspire others to share their own rich stories as gifts.

When I was 13, I recall that about six of my mates and I, on Guy Fawkes Day, fired roman candle crackers and sky-rockets, at each other, near the North Shore Road. Miraculously, none of us were injured, no damage was caused and “luckily” for us our parents never found out. The next day I learnt that a boy in St. George's had received severe burns playing a similar game.

In reconciliation, I just purchased a gift certificate from the Book Mart to give to Elliott School, in the name of my 94 year-old mother Lorraine Fubler who taught there for 45 years.

I was chairman of United Black Students of University of Miami in Spring, 1970, when 40 of us voted to stage a 'sit-in' at the Financial Aid Office, to press for more scholarships. Only three of us turned up, and went ahead with the sit-in. However, when a busload of Riot Police arrived, we slipped out of the back of the office, resulting in me feeling some guilt.

Sammy Davis Jr. was in Miami at the time, heard about the protest and volunteered to put on a concert which raised several thousand dollars towards financial assistance. While pleased at that outcome, I harboured resentment about the “no-shows”. I transferred that year to complete my studies at Howard, ironically for financial reasons.

Reflecting decades later, the penny dropped ; the 'no-shows' would have been on Financial Aid. I will make a donation to the fund that Sammy Davis started back in 1970; which will be my first contact with the university for 40 years.

When I returned to Bermuda in June 1970, I joined the Black Beret Cadre. The Conservative Party had won the UK election and announced that they would renew the sale of weapons to South Africa, in defiance of UN Sanctions. I urged fellow Berets to burn a Union Jack in protest. The group agreed and the founder, Hilton Bassett, led us to City Hall where flyers were circulated and the flag burned. Police observed the protest without intervening. Three weeks later, I left the island to return to school.

In October of 1970, Hilton Bassett was charged and tried in Magistrates' Court and imprisoned for six months. When I found out some weeks after the trial, I felt guilty, since it was my idea. My surprise at the outcome offered another lesson.

In reconciliation, I'm offering a gift certificate to the late Hilton Bassett's father for time at a Spa. Additionally, I will provide a Union Jack to the Governor, not out of any sense of guilt, but in reconciliation with the citizens of the UK, millions of whom supported the long effort to transform South Africa.

In the summer of 1971, I returned to Beret activities. One weekend the police executed a search warrant at my family's home in Cox's Hill. I responded by inciting the neighbourhood against Inspector James and the officers present.

Fourteen years ago I moved into James' neighbourhood and we began then to reconnect; especially via our annual Christmas' neighbourhood parties. A music-lover, I'll give James a gift certificate for a CD.

Returning home in 1974, I was involved in a variety of grassroots political activity. Bermuda was going through a turbulent period. Caught in the resultant polarisation, I succumbed to the isms and schisms, choosing sides. I even became estranged from my Uncle Gilbert Darrell, thinking him too conservative.

Uncle Gilbert had purchased the first television for us, when I was 14. That demonstrated his commitment to family but I was unaware at the time of his service to the wider community. We have been reconnecting for many years and this Christmas I'm gifting my Uncle a portable Short Wave Radio, one of his passions.

In 1977, I attended University of London, carrying a petition against Burrows' and Tacklyn's death sentences. In the days leading up to the hangings a couple of us lobbied at Westminster. The caucus of the Labour Party around 300 MPs voted unanimously against the hangings; notwithstanding that, the executions occurred.

The outcome of this crisis proved to be Bermuda's lowest point in the Century, but it became the book end of a decade of violence since enough of us were transformed by those events, into “peaceful warriors”. (Hence the context of concern at the current violence after two peaceful decades). I'm arranging an informal dialogue, including two friends; one of whom who was a confidant of Burrows and another whose home was reportedly damaged by Burrows.

I've shared stories only some involved “mistakes”, but my acts of reconciliation go beyond “right or wrong”, towards nurturing reconnection. The gift of forgiveness is priceless. Maybe we can choose one person, over Christmas, and forgive them; we just may inspire some young people who are “caught up in an eye for an eye”. Let's join in taking steps towards a Happy New Year.

A violent decade: A car burns on Court Street during the 1977 riots.

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Published December 21, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 21, 2010 at 6:26 am)

Forgiveness and reconciliation

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