Choosing Forgiveness After Genocide
Thomas Aquinas has written on the topic of mercy and justice as virtues. I use his theories to outline an idea of how forgiveness is an act of mercy. I build off Glen Pettigrove’s Forgiveness and Love to define forgiveness. Though the nature of forgiveness is often uncertain, it is possible to forgive, even after having been the victim of genocide. Using the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide as test cases, a theory of forgiveness will be tested to see if it can hold, even in an example as extreme as genocide. Forgiveness is a twofold act of mercy. It is emotional, but it is not entirely emotionally dependent. Emotions influence forgiveness, but people choose to forgive by an act of the will, which can be ordered by the intellect. I intend to analyze common conceptions of forgiveness, an essential component of societal healing, and how those common conceptions have affected survivors’ will to forgive their former persecutors. The Holocaust and the Rwandan genocides are representative cases where victims and criminals continue to seek healing. For an appropriate understanding of these atrocities, I will research the different historical contexts of these genocides, what happened during the genocides, and what has happened since, including individual accounts. Because ‘forgiveness’ is often used without a clear definition, I will research philosophical works on forgiveness to create a working definition. This definition should serve to identify what forgiveness is for victims of genocide.
Dietz, James W (2018). Choosing Forgiveness After Genocide. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from