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Lions Roar : September 2016
AFTER YEARS AS a freelance journalist pushed by her editors to dig up the gory details of the events she was covering, Marina Cantacuzino was getting weary. But in 2003, while covering dark stories of retaliation and revenge following the Iraq War, she discovered different narra- tives emerging, ones that prom- ised peaceful solutions. Realizing these were the stories she wanted to tell, Cantacuzino teamed up with photographer Brian Moody to create an exhibition called the “F-Word,” featuring first-person stories and arresting images exploring forgiveness in the face of atrocity. Launched in 2004, the exhibit has been displayed in more than five hundred venues around the world. “The reach was enormous,” says Cantacuzino. “It took my life in a totally different direction.” Inspired by this response, Cantacuz- ino, a practicing Buddhist for decades, founded The Forgiveness Project, a London-based charity that collects and shares stories of forgiveness. It has brought together perpetrators and vic- tims from war zones across the globe and has gone into prisons to bring victims face-to-face with those who have com- mitted similar acts. Cantacuzino says forgiveness is not for the faint of heart. “We haven’t sugar- coated forgiveness. Our approach is one of inquiry, inspiration, and examination, not one of preaching or proselytizing or persuading.” Cantacuzino acknowledges that for- giveness may have a dark side, such as forgiving someone prematurely due to a sense of duty or spiritual obligation, or using it to “one-up” someone in an argu- ment. When employed with understanding leading to empathy, she says the process of true forgiveness has many paths. “There’s no one way,” Cantacuzino says. The Forgiveness Project also explores injustice and forgiveness on a smaller scale. “We had an event with three big stories—one from Sandy Hook, one from 9/11, and one from the South African apartheid regime. But alongside those was a story about someone who had not spoken to his father for years because of being put through conversion therapy for being gay. People get something from the bigger stories, but everybody can relate to a family issue.” Cantacuzino says Buddhism is a complement to her work. “Another defi- nition of forgiveness might be compas- sionate understanding, so in that sense I am trying to amplify peaceful solutions to hatred.” We can create deep change, she believes, by telling stories of forgiveness. ♦ BODHISATTVAS The Stories We Tell Whether we’ve been harmed or caused harm, forgiveness, says MARINA CANTACUZINO, can lead us to healing. KATALINKAROLYI Tell us about a bodhisattva you know at