Conference focuses on forgiveness

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A growing body of scientific research has confirmed the positive correlation between spirituality and health, which was celebrated at the 4th Australian Conference on Spirituality and Health focussing on the theme Forgiveness: From Brokenness to Wholeness

The scientific meeting convened in Elder Hall at The University of Adelaide, brought together 150 participants from around the world including medical practitioners, psychologists, theologians, chaplains, nurses and laity. Presentations focussed on the health benefits of forgiveness and spiritually integrated therapy. Specific applied segments considered forgiveness in relation to restoration of relationships, self-forgiveness, as well as reconciliation in religious communities and secular society.

Keynote speakers included Professor Everett Worthington, internationally renowned author, researcher and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University; Professor Gerald Winslow, Ethicist and Vice President of Loma Linda University; Professor Christina Puchalski, Medical Practitioner and Executive Director of the George Washington University Institute of Spirituality and Health, and Professor Richard Gevirtz, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Alliant University in San Diego.

One of the highlights of the conference was a presentation from Mrs Rika Mombers, a member of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Adelaide, South Australia. Her life was changed forever when her home was invaded by a gunman who murdered her husband, parents, and seriously injured her son.

Her presentation highlighted the Christian obligation to forgive. She challenged the delegates by reminding them that, “When we pray the Lord’s Prayer ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive others,’ who are we to expect God to forgive us if we are not willing to do the same?” Quoting Harry Emerson Fosdick she affirmed that “Bitterness imprisons life—love releases it.”

Mrs Mombers emphasised the power of the command to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger…Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Referring to the perpetrator of the crime she commented how difficult it was to forgive, but upon reflection she came to the conclusion that, “…this man also has a family that cares for him. He has a father and a mother who love him. He is somebody’s son, brother, uncle and friend. But most of all he is God’s child as well.” 

Delegates were reminded by Mrs Mombers that the perpetrator, “Still needs to be punished for what he did, but God can give him a second chance and eternal life. And that is our hope, to have eternal life with God.” Her words illustrated the power of forgiveness and added weight to other findings that Christians are among the most forgiving people.

A DVD titled, Power of Forgiveness by Martin Doblmeier, was launched during the conference. Martin Doblmeier is the director of the documentary Bonhoeffer and The Adventist.

Dr Marek Jantos, the Convenor for the Spirituality and Health Conference, reported positive feedback from participants who appreciated the exceptional quality of the keynote speakers and the balance between research, theology and clinical application. Building on the success of the last four conferences, the fifth bi-annual conference is to be held in Adelaide in July 2013 and focus on the theme of Compassion, Spirituality and Health. Details can be obtained by email info@spiritualityhealth.org.au or www.spiritualityhealth.org.au

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