Source: (2003) In Nigel Biggar, ed., Burying the Past: Making Peace and Doing Justice after Civil Conflict. Expanded and updated. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press. Pp. 45-64.

As Jean Bethke Elshtain recalls for us, Hannah Arendt asserted that forgiveness was the greatest contribution Jesus of Nazareth made to politics. In recent years, public acts of contrition by political figures, seeking forgiveness, have become almost faddish. The question Elshtain raises is how to distinguish between serious, meaningful acts of public or political forgiveness and instances of 'contrition chic.' She distinguishes this inquiry from questions about the authenticity of individual acts of contrition and forgiveness. While they can be genuine and powerful, such as when Pope John Paul II forgave his would-be assassin, they are not usually political acts. The question is whether there are forms of authentic political forgiveness. Reflecting on contexts such as the Holocaust, Northern Ireland, slavery, and South Africa, she explores several significant issues, including the political nature of forgiveness, the parties to forgiveness, the public dimension of political forgiveness, remembrance, and political restorative justice.