Faith Matters

4 Corners Festival: What does forgiveness look like?

The 4 Corners Festival returns next week with a programme focused on exploring 'scandalous forgiveness', writes William Scholes

4 Corners Festival co-founders Fr Martin Magill, pictured left, and Rev Steve Stockman. This year's programme examines 'Scandalous Forgiveness' and runs from January 30 to February 10. Picture by Mal McCann

THE 4 Corners Festival has never shied away from tackling difficult subjects but this year's programme, which will centre on the challenge of forgiveness when it opens next week, may be the boldest yet.

Now in its seventh year and firmly established as an annual fixture, the festival has taken 'scandalous forgiveness' as its theme for 2018.

The idea of forgiveness has been a persistent underlying theme in previous festivals, particularly at events where the legacy of the Troubles has been addressed.

"We realised that it was an idea that needed opened up for discussion, reflection and, maybe most of all, implementation," said festival founders Rev Steve Stockman and Fr Martin Magill.

"Some acts of forgiveness might be absolutely scandalous to others, but might it also be scandalous too if we talk about forgiveness in church every Sunday and yet aren't about the business of forgiveness?

"What would a future Belfast look like if we were a 'forgiving city'?"

Highlights of a busy programme which runs from January 30 to February 10 include contributions from Fr Gregory Boyle SJ, Professor Robert D Enright and Michael Longley.

Fr Boyle established a pioneering ministry among gangs in Los Angeles more than three decades ago, founding Homeboy Industries which is the largest gang intervention and rehabilitation programme in the world.

Los Angeles-based Fr Gregory Boyle SJ

There are clear resonances between Fr Boyle's work with gangs in LA with the Northern Ireland experience of paramilitaries.

"Nobody has ever met a hopeful kid who joined a gang," he says. His keynote address on Sunday February 3 at 7pm in the Skainos Centre will consider compassion, what he calls "radical kinship" and the role of forgiveness in the face of violence, injury and death.

Prof Enright, meanwhile, is regarded as the world's foremost expert in forgiveness education. He helped to found the International Forgiveness Institute and is professor of educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Time magazine has called him "the forgiveness trailblazer".

"If we are to save the planet, we must be bathed in forgiveness," he says.

Forgiveness expert Prof Robert D. Enright

Prof Enright will be talking about 'Teaching the gift of forgiveness' at Stranmillis University College at 9.30am on Friday February 1.

Acclaimed poet Michael Longley will be taking part in an event called 'The Cure at Troy - Does hope and history rhyme?' at the Europa Hotel on Monday February 4 at 7.30pm.

It will see a number of public figures, including MLAs, perform a rehearsed reading of Seamus Heaney's retelling of Sophocles's Philoctetes.

It was originally staged at a time when the hotel was being regularly bombed by the IRA, and explores the idea of how someone wounded and left behind may hold the key to ending the conflict.

Michael Longley. Picture by Mal McCann

"We are honoured and privileged to have Michael Longley reading Ceasefire at the conclusion of The Cure at Troy," said Fr Magill and Rev Stockman.

"His presence enriches the event itself and our festival generally and those attending are sure to have a most memorable evening."

A full festival programme can be viewed at

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