Text of 'Thought for the Day' by Indarjit
Singh on BBC Radio 4, 10 November 1999
As the turn of the century draws near, more
and more people seem to be looking to smaller projects that recognise
the importance of the individual in effecting change as a way
of celebrating the new millennium. One of the best that I've
come across is a project called the Clean Slate Campaign. The
idea is simple. Think of someone or some group that you have
wronged and offer reconciliation. Wipe the slate clean on a bruised
relationship. It's the brainchild of Edward Peters from Oxford.
The idea came to him after he fell out with a valued friend over
a foolish and cutting remark he had made. Eventually years later
he apologised and a valued friendship was restored. It's a simple
idea we can all easily carry into our daily lives. My problem
would be where to start - I'd be spoilt for choice!
The idea of forgiveness and the seeking of
forgiveness is central to many of our religious traditions. The
Christian Lord's Prayer reminds us to forgive those that trespass
against us. Our Sikh Ardas, or daily prayer, applauds those who
forgive the faults of others. And in another verse in our holy
scriptures, Guru Nanak reminds us to "never let the night
fall on our anger". Or, in the metaphor of the Clean Slate
Campaign, to wipe the slate clean each night.
The question of apologies and forgiveness
comes up regularly in international relationships. A couple of
years ago while the Queen was on a state visit to India, some
vocal groups were asking for a public apology for the Jallianwala
Bagh massacre of several hundred people in Amritsar in 1919.
Last weekend during the Pope's visit to India there were demands
for an apology for the treatment of people in Goa by Portuguese
Christians 400 years ago. And the same sort of apologies are
routinely demanded for undoubted wrongs in other parts of the
As we enter a new millennium, perhaps it's
time to wipe the slate clean on wrongs done by generations long
ago to generations long gone. And look instead to the wrongs
that we as individuals and wider groups are currently
inflicting on those both close to us and those further afield.
The Gurus reminded us of the need to seek the forgiveness of
those we wrong while at the same time working for a kinder and
fairer society - a tall enough task which can only be damaged
if we continue to be obsessed with the wrongs of past centuries.
Indarjit Singh is the Editor of the Sikh