ABSTRACT

This volume bears witness to the involvement of systemic family therapists in a multiplicity of different contexts where human lives and relationships have been struck by despair following the planned, or unplanned, abusive actions of other human beings. Whether the focus is upon the suffering flowing from the range of abuses emergent in the intimate contexts of family life, the violence done by one community, people or culture to another, or even upon the experience of victims of natural disasters where there seems no one immediately to be held accountable but nature or the deities imagined to be represented therein, we are all part of a growing global consciousness concerning the mistreatment of human beings by other human beings. This consciousness, in turn, stimulates a further questioning about what kind of responses to these contexts are possible, relevant, required or helpful. The past 40 years have seen a variety of responses at different levels to these situations that include national and international courts of justice, truth commissions, tribunals of inquiry and validation processes of one kind or another. Systemic family therapists also contribute something to this arena. But what should their contribution be and how should they move in the space between the suffering of victims and the guilt, acknowledged or not, of others? It is in the context of this reflection that a renewed enquiry into the concept of forgiveness and its therapeutic deployment becomes relevant.