Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State on Monday said his approach to conflict resolution is to pursue “Restorative Justice” alongside “Retributive Justice” to right the wrongs of the past.
“My administration clearly understands that many of our people have been hurt and could have also caused pain for others,” said the Governor at the inauguration of the State’s first Inter-religious Committee in Jos.
However, forgiveness, for “enduring peace and harmony, as opposed to hate, bitterness, resentment and vengeance which only leads to a vicious cycle of violence,” he said was more beneficial.
“The choice before us is to either continue in our anger thus spending the rest of our lives in pain and bitterness, or we can choose to be released, healed, and be set free,” he said.
The Governor admitted that advocating forgiveness in a pluralistic society as Plateau was subject to misunderstandings and misconceptions. “Definitions of forgiveness may differ depending on which divide one is standing,” he said. However, forgiveness, according to him, can “easily” unite and benefit societies.
The Governor said, “At the risk of being misunderstood or even misrepresented, I am confident to tell you that forgiveness is not justice. While justice usually involves the acknowledgment of an evil deed, an apology, and some form of reward or punishment, forgiveness can take place regardless of whether justice is served or not.
“In the same vein, forgiveness does not automatically translate to trust. On the contrary, while forgiveness is something that should be freely given, trust however must be earned through consistent truth-telling and dialogue over a period of time.
“Forgiveness does not connote weakness, tolerance for injustice or excusing evil. Forgiveness does not also mean that the act committed does not matter nor does it suggest that the offender should not bear the consequences of his actions. Indeed, such a person should be held accountable to serve as deterrence.”
The State according to him started the “Forgiveness Day” celebration to reflect on its past experiences of violent conflicts, the current peace and craft a new beginning.
The first Inter-religious Committee headed by Rev. Prof. Pandang Yamsat, former COCIN President and His Royal Highness Alh. Sambo Mohammed III, Emir of Wase, Plateau State will promote interfaith dialogue, working with different faith communities and interfaith NGOs to encourage tolerance and among others, discuss reported cases of religious conflicts and proffer solutions.