From ethical forgiveness to political forgiveness

Manipulation or broadening of forgiveness?

  • Dany Rondeau
Keywords: Forgiveness, Politics of forgiveness, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Gacaca courts (Rwanda)


This paper argues that the use of the word "forgiveness" is inappropriate in political contexts. After explaining the definition of the philosophical concept of forgiveness, it shows that its transfer to a political level alters significantly its fundamental features. Recognizing, however, that politics of forgiveness meet a pragmatic imperative of reconciliation, it analyzes three schemes of national reconciliation (the Truth and reconciliation commission of South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on residential schools in Canada, the gacaca courts in Rwanda) to check whether forgiveness is playing an important role. The three examples analyzed show that 1) forgiveness does not play a role in all cases, and 2) that forgiveness is not a priority for these devices. It concludes by suggesting talking about politics of reparation or politics of reconciliation rather than politics of forgiveness.