A prize for repairing riven societies

In March, roughly six months into the war in Gaza, the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry published a paper exploring “the possibility of reconciliation – that is, of refiguring relationships to open up a space for dialogue to create pathways to heal the ruptures.” The study, by Paul Komesaroff, executive director of the group Global Reconciliation, noted that “the rich history of partnerships and collaborations between Jews and Palestinians provides a robust infrastructure” for peace between the two estranged communities.

A similar theme resonates in the work of this year’s winner of the Templeton Prize, which highlights discoveries that yield “new insights about religion.” The prestigious award was given to Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, a South African scholar who has explored ways to nurture deep empathy between victims and perpetrators of conflict.

Her particular focus is on the power of forgiveness to expunge hatred and historical harms. Such an approach is now widely acknowledged as essential because of wars – from Ukraine and Gaza to Myanmar and Sudan – that have resulted in extensive harm to innocent civilians.

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