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Miroslav Volf

The God Who Forgets, part 1

Salvation can be found only in memory," wrote Elie Wiesel in The Kingdom of Memory. Bitter lessons of history have taught him that "the memory of death will serve as a shield against death."

Yet in many parts of the world, includin g my own native land, the former Yugoslavia, the memory of death serves as an agent of death, keeping resentments and hatreds alive and burning. Here damnation, not salvation, seems to spring from memory.

No final reconciliation will take place without the redemption of the past, and the redemption of the past is unthinkable without forgetting. Indeed, only those who are willing ultimately to forget will be capable of remembering rightly.

After we have repented of hatred and forgiven our enemies, after we have made space in ourselves for them and left the door open, our will to embrace them must allow the one final, and perhaps the most difficult, act to take place if the process of reconciliation is be complete. It is the act of forgetting the evil suffered, a certain kind of forgetting, I hasten to add-a forgetting that assumes that the matters of "truth" and "justice" have been taken care of, that perpetrators have been named, judged, and (one hopes) transformed, that victims are safe and their wounds healed, a forgetting that can therefore ultimately take place only together with the creation of "all things new."

Could I be serious in suggesting "forgetting" as the final act of redemption? Do not victims have excellent reasons for never forgetting injustices suffered and hurts endured? There is no need to look far to find reasons. The subdued joy of the perpetrators over the loss of memory is the best argument for inscribing the narratives of their misdeeds in stone. Indeed, we have an obligation to know, to remember, and not to keep silent. If the victims remember rightly, the memory of inhumanities past will shield both them and all of us against future inhumanities; if the perpetrators remember rightly, the memory of their wrongdoing will ...

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