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Respect and reconciliation

Recently, most residents will have received a flyer in the mail calling for people to treat respectful behaviour as a human right.The organisers of this petition deserve credit for reminding the community that while respect must be earned, that does not mean it is right to treat others with disrespect.

In part, the campaign is taking place because of the terrible violence and gun crime the community has experienced this year. It goes without saying that there would be no murder, or even any crime, if every individual treated every other individual with respect. But it also applies to others in society, some very powerful, who forget that they have an obligation to be their brother's keeper, and at the very least, to listen to others' points of view and to take them seriously.

This applies to all Bermuda residents, black or white, Bermudian or non-Bermudian, man or woman, young or old. To dismiss the ideas and concerns of others simply because of who they are or where they come from is at its heart a disrespectful act. It is to be hoped that this flyer will not be a futile gesture; that people will read it and take it seriously. It rightly quotes Mahatma Gandhi saying: “We must be the change we want to see.”

It would be easy to dismiss it as naive, the psychological equivalent of putting a finger in a dyke. Why talk about respect when people are murdering one another? But if one person at a time started to treat all others and all means all with respect, it could make a difference and if enough people followed, it would cause genuine change. Last week, Glenn Fubler, the founder of Imagine 2009, used a column in this newspaper to dicuss the themes of forigiveness and reconciliation. Using the page as a confessional, Mr Fubler promised gifts to those affected by decisions he had made during his life's journey. Some are poignant, some surprising. But they showed Mr Fubler's humanity; and they demonstrated the liberating feeling that forgiveness and reconciliation can bring.

Mr Fubler's actions, on the whole, were not terrible and most stemmed from a sincere desire to change Bermuda for the better. And yet, as he notes, some of them caused pain, even unwitting pain. It's the mark of a true humanitarian to seek forgiveness and reconciliation for the unintended consequences of actions taken. Mr Fubler, who did not seek praise for any of this in writing his column, but to try to convey a lesson, deserves praise for doing so.

At heart, Mr Fubler's columns dealt with treating people with respect. Again, if more of us would put words into deeds, Bermuda and the world would be a different place. This should not be mistaken as being naive or credulous. There are bad people in the world and some will be held accountable for their actions. But even the worst criminal can be rehabilitated, but it must first start with respect for them. And if they can then willingly seek forgiveness and reconciliation for their actions, then they will truly be on the road to recovery.

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Published December 29, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 29, 2010 at 7:52 am)

Respect and reconciliation

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