Dec 6, 2022

Forgiveness Forum: Where Spirituality & Science Meet | Panel 3 of 3 (video)

Krista Tippett journalist, creator/host of On Being, and Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lutheran pastor and bestselling author, ponder the relationship between forgiveness, freedom, and a positive future.

By Templeton Staff

Moderated by On Being's founder, journalist Krista Tippett, faith leader Rabbi Rick Jacobs, and scholar Dr. Josef Boehle, this edition of the Forgiveness Forum, was co-designed by Religions for Peace International and Templeton World Charity Foundation. It brought together leaders from 5 of the world’s major religious traditions to discuss the importance and impact of forgiveness in their respective communities. A full list of speakers can be found below. Play the above video to hear the third in a three-part series of panels from the event. 

In this final segment from the forum, Krista Tippett, American journalist, author, and entrepreneur, talks with Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, a public theologian known for her unusual approach to reaching others through her church, about ways forgiveness has been part of each of their work exploring the human condition. The two also respond to insights from the previous panels, and then open the conversation to questions from the audience.

Creating conditions conducive to forgiveness is a theme that runs throughout the conversation. Some of the conditions pondered include compassion for those that need forgiveness, as well as the concept of lowering expectations of ourselves and others in order to more easily allow mercy. The panelists also bring up the relationship between forgiveness, freedom, and moving forward.

Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber describes the restrictive nature of unforgiveness. "When I have stayed in a place of unforgiveness towards somebody who's caused me harm, it can feel like an umbilical cord," she says. "There's this thing connecting me to them, to the harm that they've done me, and when I stay attached to it, it has this possibility of their stuff infiltrating my heart. I really am in danger of becoming more like them. In a sense that toxicity is connected to me because I haven't snapped that cord yet... If we don't forgive, we're stuck in the past."

Dr. ABD Raimi Chitou echoes this idea. "If we want a future that's better, we cannot keep returning to the pain of the past. We need to move forward and forgiveness is the way that we move forward," he says.


"Forgiveness makes a transformed future possible." -Krista Tippet.


One of the ways to get free from the pain of the past is to recognize the stories we tell ourselves about what happened. "The likelihood of two people telling the same story in the same way is very small. And that is what we're hung up on sometimes," says Bolz-Weber. "How much can we forgive the story we're telling about the harm that was done to us? The freedom is to just let go of the narrative."

Dr. Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati has also found that "the letting go of that identification as a victim is as critical as letting go of the anger and the pain." She says: "Going back to the science...the idea that if that which happened to you happened more than seven or eight years ago, there isn't actually a cell in your body today to which that happened...But carrying that story in our minds is what keeps us so stuck...Who would you be if you weren't the victim?"

Grand-Father Dominique Rankin explains that delving into nature, and life-affirming activities like dancing and laughing are helping him heal, reclaim his identity and transform in positive ways after the abuses he suffered as a child. "We always have things to repair and heal. But we are here, we are all together. We are brothers and sisters," he reminds us.

"Forgiveness makes a transformed future possible," summarizes Krista Tippet.

And while as Ligia Matamoros quips "if there's no forgiveness everything is worse," forgiveness is not the "full work of reconciliation which can take the rest of a lifetime or generations," points out Tippet. Matamoros agrees: "You have to ask for forgiveness but you have to also offer reparations so that everyone can make the effort to forgive in spite of being hurt. Because this is the moment where the transformation takes place in your heart, and this is what heals not only our hearts, but our souls."

Professor Dr. Azza Karam speaks about restitution. "Restitution of justice becomes part of the process when each of us in the journey of forgiveness is in that moment extended. Forgiveness – it isn't an either/or. It is a can. Can we, as we forgive, also address one another's pain and see how it is that we can be healed together through forgiveness?" she says.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs sees forgiveness as encompassing two spiritual aspects. "One is the restorative; it's the earning and the repairing of forgiveness. That's the deeper, harder work, personally. And it's the deeper, harder work in community. Then, there's the practice of forgiveness, and sometimes the two intersect, sometimes they don't... [Forgiveness] is not a simple conclusion, but so much for each of us to wrestle with, and for our communities to wrestle with. And if we could wrestle with each other's traditions and traumas, I think we could put many of the pieces of this broken world together."

A full transcript of the event is available here.

● Dr. Josef Boehle, Director, Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation
● Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lutheran minister, podcaster, and New York Times bestselling author
● Dr. ABD Raimi Chitou, Imam of Central Mosque, Zone Des Ambassades, Cotonou, and Member of Religions for Peace Benin and African Forum of Muslim Council
● Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, the congregational arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in North America
● Professor Azza Karam, PhD., Secretary General, Religions for Peace International
● Ligia Matamoros, Latin American Youth Pastor for the Latin American Catholic Episcopal Council
● Grand-Father Dominique Rankin, Former Grand Chief of the Algonquin Nation
● Dr. Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Spiritual Leader, Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance
● Dr. Andrew Serazin, President of Templeton World Charity Foundation
● Krista Tippett, American journalist, author, and entrepreneur. Creator and host of the public radio program and podcast On Being.

Learn more about the speakers in this segment:

Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber, Lutheran minister, podcaster, and New York Times bestselling author
Nadia Bolz-Weber is an author, ordained Lutheran pastor and public theologian. She served as the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Denver, Colorado, until July 8, 2018. She is also the creator and host of The Confessional and the author of three NYT bestselling memoirs: Pastrix; The Cranky, Beautiful Faith Of A Sinner & Saint (2013 and re-released in 2021), Accidental Saints; Finding God In All The Wrong People (2015) and SHAMELESS; A Sexual Reformation (2019). Bolz-Weber is known for her unusual approach to reaching others through her church. She has produced work in the church that scholar and writer Diana Butler Bass considers part of "a new Reformation."

Krista Tippett, American journalist, author, and entrepreneur. Creator and host of the public radio program and podcast On Being.
Krista Tippett is a Peabody Award-winning broadcaster, a National Humanities Medalist, and a New York Times bestselling author. She grew up in a small town in Oklahoma, attended Brown University, and became a journalist and diplomat in Cold War Berlin. She then lived in Spain and England before seeking a Master of Divinity at Yale University in the mid-1990s. Emerging from that, she saw a black hole where intelligent public conversation about the religious, spiritual, and moral aspects of human life might be. She pitched and piloted her idea for several years before launching Speaking of Faith — later On Being — as a weekly national public radio show in 2003. In 2014, the year after she took On Being into independent production, President Obama awarded Krista the National Humanities Medal at the White House for “thoughtfully delving into the mysteries of human existence. On the air and in print, Ms. Tippett avoids easy answers, embracing complexity and inviting people of every background to join her conversation about faith, ethics, and moral wisdom.” Krista has published three books at the intersection of spiritual inquiry, social healing, science, and culture: Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living; Einstein’s God, drawn from her interviews at the intersection of science, medicine, and spiritual inquiry; and Speaking of Faith, a memoir of religion in our time.

Continuing from Panel 2:

Dr. Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Spiritual Leader, Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance
Sadhviji is a renowned spiritual leader and motivational speaker, based in Rishikesh, India. She’s the author of newly released #1 bestselling memoir, Hollywood to the Himalayas: A Journey of Healing and Transformation. Originally from Los Angeles, a graduate of Stanford University, and a PhD in psychology, Sadhviji has lived on the banks of the sacred Ganga river, in the lap of the Himalayas for more than 25 years, engaged in spiritual service, wisdom teaching, sacred action, and deep spiritual practice. Sadhviji is the Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, an international interfaith organization dedicated to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; President of Divine Shakti Foundation, a foundation that runs free schools, vocational training programs, and empowerment programs.

Ms. Ligia Matamoros, Latin American Youth Pastor for the Latin American Catholic Episcopal Council (CELAM)
Ligia Elena Matamoros works with the Federation of Students of the UNED and is part of the Latin American and Caribbean Youth Ministry Team of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) to promote processes where young people integrate their faith and their lives and become builders of the Civilization of Love.

Grand-Father Dominique Rankin, Algonquin Hereditary Grand Chief; Co-President of Religions for Peace
In 2006, he was admitted to the small circle of 49 recognized medicine men in Canada. Since then, Kapiteotak (his real name at birth and his spiritual name) has devoted himself to teaching traditional knowledge to the Anishinabeg peoples (members of the Algonquin family) as a way of reconnecting them with their roots. He also shares his knowledge with people of all origins who are interested in learning about the simple, profound philosophy of his ancestors. With Marie-Josée Tardif, he co-wrote an autobiography relating his youth in Native residential schools: On nous appelait les Sauvages (They called us Savages).

Imam ABD Raimi Chitou, Member of Religions for Peace Benin and African Forum of Muslim Councils, Vice Chancellor of High Institute of Language and Sciences, and Imam of Central Mosque Zone Des Ambassadades in Cotonou, Benin
Imam ABD Raimi Chitou is a renowned scholar and religious leader, serving both as the Imam of Central Mosque Zone Des Ambassadades in Cotonou, Benin and a lecturer in Arabic linguistics. He was awarded the Award of Excellence by the local government in Saudi Arabia, has numerous publications in Arabic, and has attended a number of international conferences and seminars. Imam Chitou received his Ph.D. in Arabic Linguistics from the Udus Univeristy in Sokoto, Nigeria, and has been teaching since 1998.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism (Congressional Arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in North America)
A longtime and devoted creative change agent, Rabbi Jacobs spent 20 years as a dynamic, visionary spiritual leader at Westchester Reform Temple (WRT) in Scarsdale, New York. During his tenure, he reshaped communal worship, transformed the congregation into a community of lifelong learners, and strengthened the synagogue’s commitment to vibrancy and inclusion. Prior to his tenure at WRT, Rabbi Jacobs served the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue, where he founded and co-directed the first synagogue-based homeless shelter in New York City. Dedicated to global social justice issues, Rabbi Jacobs was part of a delegation that assessed disaster response following Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010. He also observed the plight of Darfur refugees as part of an international humanitarian mission to the Chad-Darfur border area in 2005, and in 2009, participated in an annual conference of Muslim and Christian leaders, held in Qatar, designed to build understanding between the West and the Muslim world.

Templeton World Charity Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation have been supporting research on forgiveness for over 20 years. Scientific research on forgiveness has shown us simple interventions can improve physical health, mental wellbeing, and relationships across all ages. More than fifty studies conducted around the world have found that forgiveness significantly improves mental health outcomes such as depression, anger, hostility, and stress. Learn more about our work supporting forgiveness at: