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Lessons of forgiveness in the feminine

· The film ·

A lovely English film on the war in Northern Ireland is entitled ’71 – it takes place in Belfast, divided into two sectors, the Catholic and the Protestant, in bitter conflict with each other – in which an injured English soldier is taken in and saved by a Catholic family and is also treated by the father who is a doctor. In a context of extreme violence, in which both parties seem to have lost every trace of humanity, a first step towards reconciliation is brought about through a personal relationship with the enemy. Meetings and human contact are in fact the only possible weapons against violence, the only ones strong enough to bring about reconciliation. And we all know that in human contact, in the empathetic relationship, women are unparalleled guides.

The cinema has told it over and over again, but perhaps there is nothing more touching than the story of reconciliation woven by women at the heart of the wonderful documentary The Heart of a Murderer (2012), filmed in India by the Italo-Australian film director Catherine McGilvray. In one hour the film tells the story of Samundar Singh, the young Hindu fanatic who in 1995, when he was 22 years old, killed Sr Rani Maria, a Franciscan missionary from Kerala. After having stabbed her 54 times, he left her on the roadside – a slow death, very slow, and in solitude.

Rani’s sister, also a religious, together with their mother, was able to find a path to forgiveness, hence to reconciliation, succeeding even in the difficult undertaking of translating Christian concepts into the Hindu culture, to make herself understood by the assassin. Arrested and given a life sentence, Samundar was thus forgiven by Rani’s family, who not only asked (and obtained) grace for him but managed to welcome him as a son and a brother.

In the film the director thus recounts a female journey, an ability to mend relationships torn by violence, the creativity of those who can build relations rich in humanity where there is hatred, who can replace evil by goodness, breaking the habit of responding to violence with violence.

The power of this female proposal of reconciliation was perceived about a year ago when the documentary was screened in the Rome Mosque, at the initiative of the Islamic Cultural Centre, in the presence of the director and of Rani’s sister, the real protagonist of the event. Before a public that consisted almost exclusively of men their sweetness coupled with the power of their words opened new possible scenarios of coexistence and made the audience understand that it is possible to seek reconciliation even after atrocious violence. It also taught that it is indispensable to make oneself understood, entering the language of the other with respect. It is a way of admitting that even in the enemy camp there is a longing for peace, and that the will to recognize the profound humanity of each one exists, independently of his or her religion, race or sex.

Lucetta Scaraffia

PRINTED EDITION

 

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Aug. 24, 2019

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