Religion, Spirit and Self Empowerment
My Grandfather Taught Me Forgiveness
My grandfather would always say that if we as humans don’t transcend this cycle of hatred and violence that we find ourselves in so often, we’ll always be prisoners. Even after more than 27 years of captivity, he said, “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.”
After spending nearly a third of his life in isolation from his family, friends and largely the outside world, he could have spent the rest of his existence, justifiably, living in anger and finding resentment, obsessing over the time and experiences that were stolen from him. Instead, he chose to advocate and champion human rights — to send the world an international message of peace, justice, and reconciliation.
I often consider his legacy when I think about my own life. Growing up, my relationship with my father was tumultuous. A strict academic, he had his ideas about the way I should live my life. As a budding filmmaker, I had my own ideas about pursuing my creative aspirations. It wasn’t until we began to communicate, to listen to each other, to come to appreciate each other’s points of view, that we began to get along and appreciate our unique gifts and perspectives. I guess this is something my grandfather taught me: dialogue, communication, and eventually understanding.
For the past several months, I’ve been promoting Lekha Singh’s incredible documentary, Beyond Right & Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness. Her film gets to the root of this important conversation about our ability as humans to discuss, understand, repair, and rebuild, even in the most painful circumstances. I’m a filmmaker by trade, but I’m an activist at heart. This film spoke to me on both levels. It shows how survivors of tremendous hurt and anger can reach a point where they can look their perpetrators in the eye and, in some cases, even forgive. Beyond Right & Wrong showcases the amazing progress humans can make, especially in my home of Africa, where some Rwandans have literally rebuilt their communities side by side with people who killed their loved ones. As the co-founder of Africa Rising, an organization whose sole purpose is to spread a more positive image of our continent far and wide, I am passionate about sharing the inspirational journeys of Beata, Emmanuel, Jean-Baptiste, and others with the entire world.
Now more than ever people have the opportunity to experience films in new ways. Beyond Right & Wrong gives viewers the opportunity to watch a film for free while supporting good causes. By watching the hour-long film on FilmRaise.com, you can donate money from a $500,000 prize pot (generously donated by Operation Kids and Share the Mic) to one of nine nonprofits, including the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, a foundation dedicated to my grandfather’s legacy. Every time someone views the film, $.50 is donated to whichever nonprofit they choose. That means, depending on the number of people who watch the film, these nonprofit organizations could walk away with hundreds of thousands of dollars they can use to improve our world.
In her blog post several weeks ago, Marina Cantacuzino called this film a “Peaceful Revolution.” No description could be more appropriate. I’ve traveled all over the United States promoting Beyond Right & Wrong, and I can tell you, no one walks away unchanged, unwilling to listen, unable to understand. I am committed to spreading this film’s message of peace and reconciliation and sparking at least a million conversations about justice and forgiveness. I hope you will be, too.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Beyond Right & Wrong in conjunction with the Beyond Right & Wrong One Million Viewer campaign, an effort to garner one million unique online views for Beyond Right & Wrong and, thanks to generous donations from Operation Kids Foundation and Share the Mic, support charities at the same time. Find out more about the Beyond Right & Wrong One Million Viewer campaign here. Read all posts in the series here.