Justice is a natural course of human civilization that should not be compromised or sacrificed in the name of forgiveness and reconciliation, Truth and Reconciliation Chairman Jerome Verdier has said.
But Counselor Verdier said while it is true that justice, in whatever form or manner conceived, may be balanced with the needs and aspirations of the society, forgiveness is a form of victims justice that must be embraced by all.
He however said when people acknowledge their wrongs and apologize, it makes reconciliation and forgiveness easier; but when they fail to do so, which is very often the case, forgiveness becomes a choice of personal considerations.
"The second thing to know is that to forgive is not to ignore justice or condone that wrongful act. It is to love others, heal ourselves and liberate our souls. Justice can be, should be and will be done even when we forgive the wrongdoers."
Cllr. Verdier was speaking Friday at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia where a special program organized by the TRC was held for visiting Rwandese Peace Advocate Immaculee ILigabiza. The TRC partnered with United States based TruthReconciled and the Catholic Diocese of Monrovia to bring the survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide to share her experience with the People of Liberia.
Mr. Verdier said after two decades of conflict and a revealing national process in the work of the TRC, it is the duty and obligation of every Liberian to acknowledge the wrongs of the past and forgive - if for anything else - because it is the right thing to do, saying, "when we do this, we make our contribution to national development more meaningful."
"We can build infrastructure, construct roads and bridges, offer the best health care and education opportunities possible; we can even reduce poverty but if we fail to heal, forgive and reconcile, our development goals will be meaningless and come to fraught."
Our development aspirations are sustained, he said, when we rebuild the human spirit, reconstruct broken relationships, mend broken hearts and institutionalize the rule of law as a governing principle and national priority.
Rwandese Peace Advocate Immaculee promised to use her foundation by extending her humanitarian efforts to Liberia.
"I'm so sorry for what have happened in Liberia. I'm hoping to help Liberia", she said as she made mentioned of her foundation which she said was funded out of proceeds she generated from three books she published.
Immaculee said forgiveness does not means victims of conflict are condoning the actions of the perpetrators, saying "reconciliation only happens when there is apology and there is a victim."
"There can be justice after forgiveness. But when we forgive others we ensure that there is love and reconciliation. Forgiveness doesn't mean that victims have condoned the wrong. Tears don't come from a place of confusion; tears don't come from a place of hate. Forgiveness is a personal decision."
Madam ILibagiza's visit to Liberia is in consonance with the TRC mandate to promote reconciliation and healing in Liberia following the country's civil conflict.
The TRC and partners envisaged that by sharing her story, Liberians could be further strengthened to deal with their conflict past and promote healing and recovery amongst victims of the conflict.
Immaculee's life was transformed dramatically during the 1994 Rwandan genocide where she and seven other women spent 91 days huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor's house. She entered the bathroom a vibrant, 115-pound university student with a loving family but emerged weighing just 65 pounds to find her entire family had been brutally murdered with the exception of one brother.
She later came face to face with the killer of her mother and her brother and said the unthinkable, "I forgive you." Immaculee knew, while in hiding, that she would have to overcome the immeasurable odds without her family and with her country destroyed.
Immaculee is a recipient of several notable international awards, publisher and host of a documentary titled: "Ready to Forgive, A African Story of Grace," a project sponsored by The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
Today she is regarded as one of the world's leading speakers on peace, faith, and forgiveness.