Nelson Mandela's capacity for forgiveness was remarkable, but what are the moral limits of forgiveness? Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk.
"As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison." If ever there was man who demonstrated the power of forgiveness it was Nelson Mandela. His personal example showed how forgiveness is the most powerful catalyst in the resolution of conflict. South Africa still has its problems but how much worse would they have been if Mandela had called for retribution for all the victims of apartheid, instead of leading the country in a process of truth and reconciliation, where crimes committed under the regime would be forgiven if people confessed their guilt and told the truth about their actions. Mandela was certainly a moral exemplar that we would all do well to try and emulate. Closer to home many people in Northern Ireland are still struggling to find personal peace despite the political settlement of the Good Friday Agreement. A few weeks ago, when Northern Ireland's attorney general John Larkin proposed ending Troubles-related prosecutions his idea was metaphorically drowned out by those demanding justice for the dead. Would the reaction be different if he'd made his proposal now, with Nelson Mandela's example fresh in our mind? In the interest of peace, do we all have a duty to forgive? Or are we expecting too much from victims, so that we can have the comfort of forgetting their pain and loss? Eric Lomax was a prisoner of the Japanese on the infamous Burma-Siam railway. He was mercilessly beaten in captivity. A film of his life "The Railway Man" tells the remarkable story of how Mr Lomax forgave the man who tortured him. As he said "sometimes the hating has to stop." But are their some things we should never forgive? What are the moral limits of forgiveness?