“I’m finally back in the US and the last week was such a whirlwind (with no Internet access) so I am just getting around to sending out the email about how the “Fires of Forgiveness” went last Friday night.It was perfect! A crowd full of love and commitment. Abijah, Jamaica’s hottest new reggae star, came and gave us a private concert and we lit the fire as he sang his hit song “Revelation.”
Hundreds of people who saw our flyers came to Port Antonio to be at the fire. However, many never came to our location. That night Port Antonio had a huge street carnival for the Tall Ships. You had to drive through town, with block streets and huge crowds, to get to us and most people assumed this was our gathering and never made it to Folly Beach.
Those that made it to Folly Oval (the playing field up by the main road) found cars being parked and buses that read “FOLLY/DOWNTOWN” and hopped on the bus and were delivered to the street carnival thinking they were going to the Fire of Forgiveness. Our location was further back at Folly Beach and Ruins about a half-mile up a road by the beach. In addition the town government retracted our permit and told people it was cancelled. Also a local community “Rasta” leader did the same and she told the local Rasta community not to attend and to tell others to do the same. People were told that we were bad vibe people trying to “trick” blacks into forgiveness and if it took place there would be trouble.
On Saturday, the day after, over 30 people showed up as we broke down the stage and told us they never made it out because of all this. We can only assume there were hundreds more. However, these people probably returned home and told others they went to the Forgiveness party and thousands of people showed, filling downtown Pt. Antonio!
For the small crowd of 50-100 that did show, it was powerful and moving. Everyone was in a very open-hearted place and we talked, reasoned, sang, drummed and lit our fire. Abijah’s performance was incredible and we stayed until 2am.
All of this is leading me to the decision to have another Fire of Forgiveness within the next year. In this one I would better use the tribal drummers like reggae stars Abijah, Morgan Heritage, Luciano, etc. in a free concert to call the tribe together. Monday I met with the deputy mayor of Pt. Antonio (I actually became friends with him and the mayor through it all) and he predicted a concert like that would bring in thousands if not tens of thousands. We agreed to discuss further the use of Folly for this event. Abijah is committed and I will talk with Luciano and Denroy Morgan this week. I am thinking during Bob Marley’s birthday week (February 6) or next summer.
This would be a very high profile international event focusing on forgiveness as the active component of One Love. We would encourage others to join us that night by lighting fires around the world (as many did for this event). I have learned so much from this and the “Gathering of the Healers” conference in February that we could use in this larger event.
In all it was perfect–exactly as it was meant to be with many small groups of committed people around the world sending out a message of love and forgiveness. Over the last 6 weeks tens of thousands of people in Jamaica discussed, examined, argued about and thought about forgiveness.
The journey was complete, almost like a morality play, with opposition, drama, and resolution. The symbolism of a huge free party going on next to our small gathering convinces me that people can be lead back to love if it is presented to them as an alternative to bitterness, revenge and fighting. It is just a matter of effectively getting their attention (gathering the tribe) and presenting the concept (gathering the healers/ fires of forgiveness).
ADDRESS TO THE JAMAICAN PEOPLE AT THE “FIRES OF FORGIVENESS: THE HEALING OF THE NATIONS”
I want to officially welcome everyone here to this celebration which we are calling “The Fires of Forgiveness: The Healing of the Nations.” The purpose of this gathering is to send out a powerful vibration of love and forgiveness to the island and to the world.
This is our second event here in Jamaica. Our first event took place four months ago on Feb. 4 during the annual Bob Marley Birthday week festivities. On that day, my wife, Julia, my daughter, Alicia, and I, along with many well-known Jamaicans, gathered at The Bob Marley Museum in Kingston for what we called “The Gathering of the Healers: The Healing of the Nation,” and we invited the Jamaican people to be the first society in history to heal itself with One Love and true forgiveness.
Joining us that night in extending that invitation were reggae stars, Luciano, Abijah and Denroy Morgan, the founder of Morgan Heritage, author and attorney Dr. Dennis Forsythe, Antonnette Haughton, the founder of the United People’s Party, and Rasta elders Thomas “Scram” Anderson and Mortimo Planno, who was also Bob Marley’s mentor.
Since that night four months ago the murder rate in Jamaica, which had been climbing for over a year, has dropped 16%. We do not know, nor will we ever know, if this decline–this healing–was due to our efforts, those of the government and law enforcement agencies or just a statistical blip. What we do know for certain however, is that event, like this event tonight, created healing within every individual who accepted our invitation to exercise forgiveness in their relationships.
We do not yet know if humanity has spiritually and emotionally evolved to the point whereby it can begin to heal itself with love and forgiveness. However, when it has evolved to this point, it may well begin here in Jamaica, which we believe to be the headquarters–the “heartquarters”–of One Love.
Why do we believe this? To begin with Jamaica is the birthplace and continuing source of reggae music, the musical message of One Love. From its beginnings with its most powerful messenger, the Honorable Robert Nesta Marley, Jamaica has continued to produce these musical messengers, these tribal drummers of love, including artist such as Luciano, Morgan Heritage, Abijah, Beres Hammond, Bushman, and Tony Rebel.
No other music except Gospel, indeed no other art form, has ever sent out such a clear and powerful message of love. Yet many Jamaican singers, artist imbued with the true message of reggae, have consistently sent out this message for over four decades–a message that has touched the hearts of many Jamaicans as well as people worldwide.
That this musical message of One Love has come out of Jamaica is not a coincidence but rather because reggae music, like all forms of music, reflect the true heart and soul of the culture from which it is birthed. Reggae represents the love, the joy and the tremendous capacity to forgive of the Jamaican people.
However, there are other reasons we believe Jamaica will lead the world into this One Love vibration? I think it is clear to most of us that this vibration cannot emanate from the world capitals of Washington, Moscow or London, or even from the religious capitals of Jerusalem, Rome or Mecca. But why Jamaica?
Few, if any, countries in the world have known the suffering over an extended period of time as has Jamaica. It is in adversity that a society’s character shines most clearly. If Jamaica can heal itself through love and forgiveness, after all it has been through and all it is still going through, it will have the moral authority to look to the world and say “You, too, can heal your country with the love in the hearts of your people.”
Jamaicans’ tremendous capacity to forgive is apparent to most people familiar with this island. In a country that has much to be angry and bitter about, Jamaicans are some of the most loving people in the world. Any Jamaican that has traveled abroad, and any foreigner who has come to know your people as we have, can testify to this.
We are only asking Jamaicans to do more of what they already do so well–to continue to love and forgive and to do so with such commitment and passion that your love begins to solve your country’s seemingly insolvable problems, problems that your political leaders and law enforcement agencies seem helpless to control.
Many people here and abroad share our view of Jamaica’s special destiny. I would like to share with you an email we received several weeks ago from a Jamaican now living in the Dominican Republic. He wrote:
“In 1979 a great guru from India visited Jamaica. His name was Shrii Shrii Anandamurti. In 1985 soon after I was introduced to yoga and meditation, I went to India. My guru was Shrii Shrii Anandamurti. At that time I had the interest to ask why he had come to Jamaica.
I was told that on his one and only European tour and he asked to go to Jamaica. Those closest to him, argued against this decision saying that Jamaica had nothing to offer the world, and it would be better for all if he would go to the USA where long-lasting linkages and relationships could be established. Shrii Shrii Anandamurti insisted on going to Jamaica. He said to the organizers at the time, ‘You cannot see into the future but I can. Now communism is apparently strong but in ten years time there will be no Berlin Wall and communism as we know it today will be dead. After the collapse of the communist economy, the capitalist economy will begin to unravel… In the darkest moment, people will come to Jamaica for spiritual upliftment. Jamaica will be like a shining light for the world.’
Jamaica was the only country he visited this side of the Atlantic.
Over the years I have wondered when will this great light begin to appear. Lately, I have come to realize that it has already been turned on by individual selfless acts and events such as yours help intensify the glow.
Why are we here tonight? We have arrived at a point in history where 19 men with penknives can bring a superpower to its knees, where a small nuclear scatter bomb can make all of mid-town Manhattan uninhabitable for decades, where the escalating conflict in the Mideast threatens to destabilize the entire region and leaders in Pakistan and India have brought their countries to the brink of nuclear war, a war that experts say could kill 18 million people in the first week.
In his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method that rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.” Or as reggae star Bushman sings, “Tribal war won’t solve the problem. Only love of the heart can solve it now.“
And this is our goal. We can no longer rely on our political leaders to teach love to the people. It is all too often a love they themselves do not know and you cannot teach what you do not know.
The centuries-old model of entrusting political leaders to solve a society’s problems must now be augmented by the citizens of that society taking individual responsibility to solve these problems by exercising love and forgiveness in their personal relationships. It is the lack of love that has created most of these problems and it is only with the infusion of love that we can now solve them. We must end the bitterness and resentment in our hearts, forms of emotional violence, to end the violence in our world. In this area of national healing the people will be the leaders and the elected leaders the followers.
And just that it does not take a large group of people to cause massive death and destruction, correspondingly it does not take a large group to create massive healing.
Today we are calling to you to claim your place as healers and to step forward and teach the people this One Love. And by teaching love, they lead God’s children back to Him, just as those who teach hate, revenge and separation lead God‘s children astray. Every one of us is potentially a healer. We need only claim our God-given position as healers by opening our hearts and minds to love. Just as the politicians are the secular leaders, the healers are the spiritual leaders.
We have all gathered here today to plant this one concept in your mind–that you, the people of Jamaica, at every level–rich and poor, Christian, Rasta, Muslim and Jew, black, brown, yellow and white, rural and urban, young and old–control your own destiny and the ability to heal yourself, your life, your relationships and your island is within your hands and your hearts. We are not the victim of our life but rather its creator.
A model of individual and societal healing created here in Jamaica, in the “heartquarters” of One Love, can serve as a pattern for the planet–a pattern that is needed, in fact is absolutely necessary, at this time in human history.
Less than a mile from here the Tall Ships, similar to the slave ships, are moored in the Port Antonio Harbor. These masted sailing vessels are a remnant of the colonial empire that once ruled the seas. However, it was this same colonial empire whose leaders repeatedly concluded that it had the right, even the divine authority, to treat other humans as chattel.
The immensity of the African slave trade is almost impossible to comprehend. It lasted over 400 years and subjected tens of millions of Africans to unimaginable suffering. It involved three continents–Europe, Africa and America–and was legally sanctioned by all the “civilized” powers of the.
This atrocity was not perpetrated by the average citizens of the slave-holding countries but rather by a handful of nobility and business and political leaders to further their own selfish interests. Indeed at the same time these leaders enslaved Africans, they often kept their own citizens as indentured servants–a veiled form of slavery. Like many of today’s leaders, they lead their people astray.
Slavery and its modern counterpart, financial exploitation, is not just something whites do to blacks. It is rather something those with superior physical or financial power impose on others, no matter what the color of their skin. Whites have enslaved whites and blacks have enslaved blacks. Slavery and exploitation is not so much a racial or religious problem as it is a human problem.
In addition to being near the Tall Ships, we have gathered here, in front of the crumbling ruins of the Folly Great House, as it too is a decaying symbol of this harsh reality. This house is one of the last structures built in Jamaica by enslaved Africans before their emancipation in 1838. In a last statement of rebellion, the workers purposely used sea water in the mortar, knowing it would cause it to collapse. Just as the Tall Ships represent slavery in general, Folly House represents Jamaican slavery in particular. And just as the sea water eroded this structure from within, so will love and forgiveness erode prejudice, hate and greed from within a person’s heart.
We have gathered here today before these two symbols of the colonial empire to publicly offer forgiveness–forgiveness that most Jamaicans have long ago offered in the privacy of their hearts. Though no apology has ever been offered, though no amends or reparations has ever been made, though no monument or shrine to the suffering of slavery has ever been erected, the Jamaican people have offered their love and respect to England and the other slave-owning societies. This fact alone is a testament to the forgiving heart of the black race in general and the Jamaican people in particular.
What is forgiveness? True forgiveness, forgiveness that heals, is the crucial element of One Love. If One Love is the noun, forgiveness is the verb. Forgiveness is One Love in action. True forgiveness is not our pardoning someone we feel has unjustly attacked or injured us. This is “forgiving-to-destroy” as it only reinforces the person’s sense of shame and unworthiness.
True forgiveness is understanding that every so-called “attack” is in reality an appeal, a call for healing and help, regardless of the form it takes. And if we answer this call for love with our love, we remind the other person of their Divine perfection, instilled in them by their Creator. Our forgiveness is a wake up call to someone who has not sinned or attacked but rather fallen asleep and gone astray. This is “forgiving-to-heal.” And by exercising this true forgiveness, by reminding our “transgressors” of their true Divine nature, we remind ourselves of our own.
This is what Christ was asking us to do when He told us to pray “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespassed against us” and why on the cross He said, “Forgive them Father for they no not what they do.”
Many people have said we are asking too much, that it is too hard to forgive when you have been badly mistreated. To them we would say, “You are right. It is hard to forgive. It is the second hardest thing in the world.” The only thing harder is to not forgive because, as a friend once told me, resentment does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than the object on which it is poured. Whether we believe it fair or just, God has created our world so that our own personal happiness is directly linked to our ability to forgive ourselves and others.
Other people have said forgiveness can only be offered if the offending party asks us for it and is willing to make amends. However, this is not “for giving” but rather “for getting” as it is offered not to give but to get something in return. It is our refusal to forgive others without their asking to be forgiven and their making amends that is keeping the world bound in a vicious cycle of attack and counterattack that must be broken. True forgiveness is unilateral–something that is freely offered without demands for amends and reparations. It is something that we do to unburden our hearts and heal the relationship, even if the other party does not yet chose to join us in this healing.
However, true forgiveness does not mean we do not demand fairness or seek reparations. It only means that we do so to seek justice rather than revenge. We can still ask, even demand, fair compensation from a state of forgiveness and love. Forgiveness dictates the content of the relationship not the form. Indeed the offending party can never truly heal their hearts until fair amends and reparations are made.
Still others have said why should I, a foreigner, a white American, come to Jamaica and ask descendents of enslaved Africans to forgive slavery. To you I would say if you, like me, are working to heal this country–this planet–with love, I am not a foreigner but your brother, your co-worker, a fellow tribal member, and the color of my skin and my nationality is of no more importance than the color of my eyes.
We began our ceremony earlier today in the village of Charles Town, a few miles from here in the Blue Mountains. Charles Town is one of the ancestral homes of the Windward Maroons, the Africans who lived free in the Blue Mountains. In 1738, 100 years before general emancipation, England, being unable to subdue them, granted all Maroons their liberty, the first Africans to be freed in the Western Hemisphere. It was with this torch that we lit our first “fire of forgiveness” earlier today in Charles Town.
And as we light this “Fire of Forgiveness” here, thousands of other Jamaicans throughout the island are also lighting their own “Fires of Forgiveness,” if only a candle, to join us. In the weeks leading up to today, we have also received emails and phone calls from people all over the world who are also joining us. So as we light this fire, fires are being lit not only throughout Jamaica but in the U.S., in Spain, in Europe, in Poland, in the Dominican Republic, in England and elsewhere–all bringing the same message of forgiveness to the world.
As we light this “Fire of Forgiveness,“ here at Folly Beach, in front of the Folly Great House and the Tall Ships, we are consecrating this spot into holy ground–for the holiest place on earth is not a religious shrine or tomb but rather anywhere an ancient hatred has become a present love. These hatreds can be one day old or centuries old, toward one specific individual or an entire race or nation of people. And as we light this fire, we are inviting all Jamaicans and people everywhere, to forgive, as much as they are presently able, everyone they are holding bitterly and by doing so consecrate their own hearts into holy ground.
Let’s begin here and now and for every person accepting our invitation to step forward into love and forgiveness, your own personal success is instantly certain. Your own life will become healed. And with each step–each act of true love and forgiveness–it will feel so good in your heart that you will take the next and the next–all the way Home–for this love, forgiveness and healing is what everyone is seeking.
And when the world wants to know why is Jamaica ablaze with fires this night, we can say that One Love truly has become Jamaica’s message to the world. Thank you.”