National Forgiveness Week (NFW) is a movement of conviction by the Holy Spirit that brings people, leaders, people groups and nations to their knees, seeking God’s forgiveness and offering forgiveness to others.
In several nations it has culminated in annual nationwide events where the need for forgiveness is focused upon. NFW is to be funded by government and organised by a joint church/government collaboration where people are openly taught the value of forgiving one another for offenses (whether real or imagined). It is not constrained by church walls but is an open message to the entire population. It is to be fronted by both Christian Aboriginals and the combined Christian Churches of Australia.
We see a momentum being moved by the Spirit of God right now. There are people gathering to this in Australia, PNG & Bougainville. We will give notice when public opportunities arise but in the meantime – if you would like to support this in prayer and other ways, please see contact us. [See below]
We are currently living in a climate of ever-increasing demands for the rights of individuals. The once-strong Judeo-Christian ethic is passing away and the lingering effects of righteousness, imbued by prior generations of Christians, are rapidly waning. Moral and ethical standards are decaying. The slide seems to be taking us into ever-deepening realms of personal selfishness. People, in general, are looking to the law to resolve problems which once were tackled by the application of a little forgiveness.
Virtues such as humility, mercy, kindness and forgiveness are regarded as old fashioned, perhaps even as a display of personal weakness in this day and age. Yet, the world is subconsciously needing to see a realistic alternative demonstrated by a healthy Church … a Church that will lead the world onwards into a righteous value system.
National Forgiveness Week – Fiji
NFW was first practiced as an annual event in Fiji from 2004-06 inclusively, funded by the government and managed through a joint effort of both church and state. The Prime Minister endorsed the project and funded it from government coffers to the tune of $700,000. It was held openly in every city and in twenty regional centres throughout the island nation as a multicultural event which showcased cultures fostering understanding and reconciliation. Church ministers had opportunity to teach the principles of forgiveness to the populous at these events. Secular media such as newspapers and TV reported positively on the nationwide initiative throughout NFW. News articles were a daily occurrence where many moving testimonies of forgiveness were aired to the nation.
Note: Fiji National Forgiveness Week was referred to by a number of names in the press, namely Fiji Week – National Week of Reconciliation and Forgiveness, Reconciliation Week and Forgiveness Week.
National Forgiveness Week – Vanuatu 2010
The island nation of Vanuatu heard about NFW and the Prime Minister instructed the church denominations of the nation to organise and hold NFW throughout his beloved country. The Government funded Vanuatu Forgiveness Week which was held in 2010 predominantly throughout the islands of Efate and Espiritu Santo.
National Forgiveness Week – Arnhem Land
Since 2006, many remote Aboriginal communities throughout Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory have held Forgiveness Week. The community of Beswick has held the event annually. Aboriginals in the region have no word for forgiveness in their language; they practise ‘Pay Back’ where offences are addressed through acts of vengeance upon perpetrators or their family members. Now, many Aboriginals have embraced the teaching of Jesus to forgive one another with some outstanding relational results.
Painting titled: Ripple Effect of Forgiveness
In 2009 at a women’s conference in Katherine, NT, two Aboriginal ladies from Manyallaluk community, Racheal Kendino and Mavis Jumbiri, shared a Holy Spirit-inspired vision of forgiveness across Australia. Christian Indigenous artist Safina Stewart (nee Fergie) was attending the gathering and was asked by the ladies to paint their God-given vision. See the meanings of the symbols used in the painting.
ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIA LEADS THE WAY
The Church seems to have lost its public voice in Australia, having no platform from which to speak to the nation. However, Australia is wanting to connect and reconcile with our First Nation peoples. Thus, the Aboriginals have the ear of the nation and are better positioned to speak about spiritual matters and reintroduce the principles of one-on-one forgiveness to broader Australia. In a climate where so many are decrying the sins of colonial settlers, especially the Stolen Generation, the Aboriginals want an opportunity to offer their forgiveness publicly and to share their heartfelt testimonies. Many such stories go beyond the issues surrounding the Stolen Generation. And ever since the Apology and the Sorry Day initiatives many have wanted to express their forgiveness as an appropriate response.
NFW will give the microphone to the Aboriginal people to focus upon forgiveness. Our Aboriginal Christian brothers are a spiritual people. The simple message of forgiving one another has impacted them, with many wonderful testimonies of forgiveness.
For example, in the town of Katherine, an Aboriginal man was run over and killed by a truck driven by another Aboriginal man. The family of the deceased man met to decide upon an appropriate level of pay back which was to be meted out upon the truck driver and his family members. After all the suggestions had been considered, presumably including the killing of the truck driver, a woman who had been present at Forgiveness Week in Beswick spoke up.
She said, “Why don’t we just forgive him?”
“What’s forgiveness?”, they responded.
After she explained the meaning and application of forgiveness to her family, they all agreed, saying, “That’s what we will do for our pay back; we will forgive him!” And that is what they did.
STRUCTURE OF NATIONAL FORGIVENESS WEEK FOR AUSTRALIA
NFW for Australia might look very different from how it was structured in the South Pacific islands where there were street marches, rallies, cultural events, school involvement etc. Fiji and Vanuatu are Christianised nations with chiefly infrastructures which can facilitate government dictates, especially those of the Great Council of Chiefs. Australian society has no identifiable traditional network through which NFW can be easily communicated and implemented. The Aboriginals have such networks, but these are limited to their own tribal and familial structures. This not only restricts our understanding of Aboriginal culture but confines any influence they may have to within their local communities.
We propose to bring the main church denominations together to introduce NFW to Australia. To this end, we will form a NFW Committee, comprising of a delegate from each major denomination, some government representation and a select number of Aboriginal Christians (specifically those who have been impacted by Forgiveness Week in Arnhem Land). This committee will design NFW for Australia. Delegates will report back to their respective denominational authorities until consensus is reached, after which the federal government will be formally approached to fund the initiative at a nationwide level. Thus, church and government will be involved in the organisational aspects giving Christian Aboriginals a podium from which to address the nation. Christian ministers, both black and white, will have opportunity to teach openly on the simple message of forgiveness, one of the most basic tenets of the Christian Church.
THE MESSAGE AND ANTICIPATED OUTCOMES
Every human has been offended and ‘wronged’ by someone else. Alternatively, everyone has offended and ‘wronged’ another. Consequently, the need to forgive the offences of others can be readily understood. This simple truth can impact many. The condition of their own hearts may be revealed, which leads expressly to their need for God’s forgiveness available through the sacrifice of Jesus.
The message and its potential …
- The consequences of not forgiving and the impact upon relationships.
- The principles and limitations of forgiveness.
- An introduction to the grace of forgiveness to all Australia through open teaching and personal testimony.
- An open appeal to encourage the regular practice of forgiveness and restitution.
- To unite the Christian Churches of Australia in one annual endeavour which will culminate in a nationwide celebration. Presumably, although Christian denominations differ on many fronts, all should be able to unite and work together around this elementary Christian grace.
A COMBINED CHURCH EFFORT
A collaborative effort by the Christian churches of Australia will afford many opportunities to put the teachings of Jesus before the general public. NFW is not without dangers and potential threats which will also have to be negotiated wisely. The combined churches must manage the week to ensure that it does not become a stage for politics or hijacked by fringe groups with their own agendas. It must remain a Christian endeavour, an appeal to individuals rather than some broad-based forgiveness exercise.
Some starting points to consider in the design of NFW …
- An 8-day public program to be developed and planned for all Australia including cultural events, music, traditional foods etc. to become a reconciliation exercise in itself.
- Engagement of media throughout NFW is essential. A social media platform should also be designed.
- A budget should be determined and so an appropriately trained and experienced financial adviser should be appointed.
- Funded by government and managed by combined church and government cooperation.
- Endorsement by Aboriginal elders.
- Endorsement by national and community leaders.
- Heavy reliance upon Aboriginal testimonies declaring their troubles and the solutions which forgiveness yielded.
- Open teaching by church leaders on the principles of forgiveness.
- Involvement of state and local governments, schools and businesses, police and military.
- On the final day of NFW local community events should be planned to celebrate the outcomes of the previous 7 days.
- Proposed as an annual national event, as each year will raise its own unique forgiveness issues.
FLOODGATES OF GLORY: The Wonder of Heartfelt Forgiveness
The story of what God has done, and the ongoing call to National Forgiveness Week has been written by Robert Warren in Floodgates of Glory: The Wonder of Heartfelt Forgiveness which was published in May 2016.
A previous version was published in 2006 as When Angry Hearts Forgive: Opening the Floodgates of Glory with the Power of Forgiveness.
Floodgates of Glory is also available on back order from Koorong Books (Australia).
Copies of Floodgates of Glory are available upon request to email@example.com at a cost of $20-00 each or bulk orders of 10+ books for $17-50 each plus postage.
As a special offer, a second book of your choice, by the same author, will be included free of charge (while stocks last) with every purchase.
- Summer Showers and Cactus Flowers – a compilation of Christian poetic verse
- From Here to Kingdom Come – a book for every Christian who longs for something more in God.
Forgiveness is the quintessential ingredient for any healthy society. It is the oil which lubricates good relationships within a nation. Abraham Lincoln said, “The strength of a nation lies in the homes of its people.” The Bible states, “Righteousness exalts a nation” (Proverbs 14:34). If individuals clean up their own backyard, the nation will be clean, and this requires the message of the Christian Church to be brought to bear upon Australia by impacting individuals.
NFW is only one piece in the ‘jigsaw puzzle’ of national reconciliation and unity, but it is a beginning for both Aboriginal Australia and the churches of our nation to bring godly influences to our land.
UPDATE – BOUGAINVILLE
Bougainville is a group of islands north of the Solomon Island archipelago rich in mineral resources, namely copper and gold. It has a population of approximately 300,000 with a rich cultural diversity of 21 distinct language groups and 39 dialects. In 1988 civil war broke out between Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) until 2001 when a peace treaty was negotiated. An estimated 15,000-20,000 Bougainvillians lost their lives in the conflict.
Although not yet a fully independent state, Bougainville remains attached to PNG, being classified as the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. It has an elected President and a 40-seat democratic parliament sited in Buka on the north island. However, after the referendum of 2019, the majority of inhabitants voted to become an independent nation, which is yet to be realised. After recently hearing about NFW, the government of has shown interest in holding the event across the islands. This emerging new nation wants to address the cultural divisions and destructive consequences of the civil war. This conflict has left deep wounds in the hearts of its people and has devastated the economy. Church ministers are saying, ‘We need this. Now is the time.’ The NFW team are presently holding discussions with Bougainville (both church and state) to implement Bougainville National Forgiveness Week in the near future.
Rob Warren, Dr Tim O’Neill and Sue Tinworth