In Your Network - Marina Cantacuzino
Marina Cantacuzino is a former journalist who is now the Director of the Forgiveness Project, which she set up to explore reconciliation and the power forgiveness brings. She would like to connect with other Fellows around restorative processes:
1) Please give a brief explanation of what it is you do and why?
In 2004 I founded The Forgiveness Project (TFP), a UK charity that uses storytelling to explore how ideas around forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution can be used to impact positively on people’s lives, through the personal testimonies of both victims and perpetrators of crime and violence. My background is journalism and the organisation grew out of an exhibition I created in 2004, called “The F Word: Stories of Forgiveness”. With the war in Iraq still a topic of fierce debate, and against a background of pay-back and retaliation, these narratives of hope seemed to tap into a deep public need for alternative and peaceful responses to violence. The Forgiveness Project grew out of my own personal conviction that hardened attitudes and fixed perspectives start to shift when we hear the stories of others.
2) Why did you join the RSA?
I joined the RSA because it is a beacon of inquiry, provokes broad discussion, and is one of the few spaces dedicated to expounding, disseminating and promoting fresh ideas and ideals.
3) What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about finding peaceful solutions to conflict and helping people build and demonstrate empathy. My work focuses on fostering understanding between people and communities who have competing narratives and who see themselves as different from one another. I want to create safe places for difficult dialogues.
4) What makes you angry?
Social injustice, the inequality of the UK education system, and the kind of black-and-white thinking that lends itself in particular to religious fundamentalism. It seems that because human-beings fear uncertainty, religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to a certainty of I'm right and you're wrong.
5) What would you change in society given the chance?
I would ensure that every victim of crime and violence was offered the opportunity to have a restorative justice conference – where victim and offender can meet face-to-face, or at the very least have some kind of dialogue via a third party. This is because restorative justice allows victims to respond to trauma and express their rage and sadness - something the criminal justice system inhibits. In most cases it significantly helps victims in their healing journey. It also enables offenders to understand the impact of their actions on others, assists them in making reparation, and helps them repair the harm done to both the victim and to themselves.
6) What is the most important lesson you’ve ever learnt?
The Egyptian journalist, writer and former Islamic extremist, Khaled al Berry, said to me once – “The most dangerous thing in life is to let people become convinced that truth has just one face.” I’m not comfortable around certainty.
7) What recent bit of news have you heard which inspires you?
The story in The Guardian from Iran of Samereh Alinejad – a mother of a murdered son, who said she had no intention of sparing her son's killer, Balal, from being executed until the moment she saw the noose around his neck and found herself pleading for it to be removed. It's encouraging how a story like this receives far more attention (quickly going viral) than stories of revenge and retaliation. I think this is because it provides people with a sense of hope and a belief in the possibility of a more peaceful future.
8) What would you like to connect with Fellows about? Please tell us if there is anything you would like from other Fellows
I would like to speak to Fellows with expertise in processes of restorative circles. We are also holding a series of events for the 10th anniversary of the Forgiveness Project with two coming up in May and June. Find out more information on our website. I hope you can come along.