“The Forgiveness Project is an award-winning, secular organisation that collects and shares real stories of forgiveness to build understanding, encourage reflection and enable people to reconcile with the pain and move forward from the trauma in their lives. Its founder, Marina Cantacuzino, author of Forgiveness is Really Strange, will be in conversation with Madeleine Black who writes in Unbroken about her gang-rape aged thirteen years old, and three more rapes before the age of eighteen. Madeleine tells her deeply moving and empowering story, as she discovers that life is about how a person chooses to recover from adversity. The authors will tackle such questions as; What is forgiveness? What enables people to forgive? What can the latest psychological research tell us about the nature of forgiveness, its benefits and risks?”
My 4th event of Aye Write, was something a little bit different from my usual Crime Fiction panels but it was an event that I was looking forward to having got to know Madeleine Black and read her powerful story in “Unbroken”. Madeleine was appearing with Marina Cantacuzino, founder of the Forgiveness Project and this was one panel that I knew was going to be thought-provoking, emotional but yet very strong in its message of the strength of survivors.
The location for this evening’s event was The Royal Concert Hall, a place with fond memories for me as this is where I graduated and the iconic Concert Hall Steps are a favourite hangout for Glaswegian students, workers and visitors to gather in the warmer weather.
A hushed audience listened intently as Marina introduced the event with some background to The Forgiveness Project, which she is the founder of.
The Forgiveness Project collects and shares stories from individuals and communities who have rebuilt their lives following hurt and trauma. It provides resources and experiences to help people examine and overcome their own unresolved grievances. The testimonies they collect bear witness to the resilience of the human spirit and act as a powerful antidote to narratives of hate and dehumanisation, presenting alternatives to cycles of conflict, violence, crime and injustice.
Madeleine then told her harrowing story of being gang raped at the age of 13. I have heard Madeleine share her experience at a number of events now and it never loses the punch that it delivers and we have to remind ourselves that Madeleine’s book “Unbroken” is not fiction, it is her memoir and it is an emotional but powerful read of her journey to healing and forgiveness. Madeleine’s story will never lose it’s impact no matter how many times I hear it.
Marina introduced her graphic novel, “Forgiveness is Really Strange” This imaginative comic explores the key aspects of forgiveness, asking what it means to forgive and to be forgiven. Witty and intelligent, it answers questions about the health benefits and restorative potential of forgiveness and explains, in easy-to-understand terms, what happens in our brains, bodies and communities when we choose to forgive.
Although the subject matter is dark, it was not a depressing evening, it was an event filled with hope, positivity and a real belief in the resilience and strength of human beings; both women talked about change, not only within themselves following their own experiences but also change in attitudes, impacts on behaviour as they take their work into schools, prisons and into our communities.
Questions and observations from the audience came thick and fast as people were keen to hear more about the work of the Forgiveness Project and both Madeleine and Marina’s experiences.
Once again a powerful message was given, one where we learn that it is OK to use our voices, survivors of sexual violence, abuse and trauma have nothing to be ashamed about; this was a message of hope, strength and resilience and it is one that I am proud to share at every turn.
You can read my review of Unbroken here
Unbroken is available to purchase here
Forgiveness is Really Strange is available to purchase here
To find out what else is happening at Aye Write and to grab yourself some tickets then click the link below: