"Could you forgive the unforgiveable?" Kate Kellaway, in the Observer:
"The Forgiveness Project...has no religious or political agenda. It has no agenda at all apart from the brave, unfashionable wish to turn the blame culture on its head, to share the stories of people who, in extremis, have discovered that 'the only way to move on in life is to lay aside hatred and blame'. It tells of victims and perpetrators from all over the world: South Africa, America, Israel, Northern Ireland.
"...These stories are tremendously moving but they are complicated too. Would it be unfair to suggest that Rice's sentiment sounds precariously close to revenge? Forgiveness can be uncomfortable. It may induce squeamishness, strain, disbelief in the onlooker and, perhaps, in the forgiven. It can seem artificial. It seems to involve an emotional double-jointedness, an ability to bend backwards further than an ordinary person is designed to go. And yet, at other times, something miraculous occurs. People seem to emerge into a new landscape, a clearing where negative feelings no longer consume them. I imagine that it is not an easy place to be. They are exposed, unsupported - for revenge and hatred were, in their ugly way, crutches - but they are free.
"...Adam Phillips, writer and psychoanalyst, suggests: 'Forgiveness is not an act of will, if genuine.' He is quick to see its darker aspect: 'It puts the forgiver in an immensely powerful position. There is word magic here: the belief that if you forgive, people will be absolved of their guilt. At worst, forgiveness is a tyrannical gift: your life in my hands. You'll feel better when I forgive you.'
"Marian Partington, whose sister Lucy was one of the victims of Frederick West, the Gloucester mass murderer, disengages herself from the word: 'I don't like 'forgiveness'. It is completely barnacled with aeons of piety. I prefer compassion: empathy with suffering.' If the word is to be used, she sees it as 'a verb not a noun. I get a bit suspicious of people who say "I have forgiven", as if it is something in the past...'
"After trauma, she believes, people often experience a 'frozen silence with no words. There are no words to describe this place'. Time involves a thaw and 'acceptance' and, in Partington's case, luminous words to describe her feelings, to break the silence."