A California-based group believes the healing power of forgiveness can transform societies for the better, and to that end it is promoting the first Sunday in August as “International Forgiveness Day.”

The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance, based in Mill Valley, Calif., is a nonprofit foundation whose “mission is to evoke the healing spirit of forgiveness worldwide,” said Robert Plath, founder of the WFA, which aims to make International Forgiveness Day the first global holiday.

Plath, a 77-year-old practicing attorney, founded the WFA seven years ago.

“The real genesis is Genesis, in a way,” Plath told EthicsDaily.com about the beginnings of the holiday. “Forgiveness is part of our human craving for wholeness.”

“I began to think about how valuable it would be if every city, village, hamlet in the world on a particular day had their attention focused on forgiveness,” he continued.

The first celebration was held at a recreational field in Corte Madera, Calif., in 1996. Plath said about 20 people gathered, formed a circle and called into the circle things they wanted to forgive or wanted forgiveness of.

The holiday has continued to evolve. This year’s main celebration will take place at the Golden Gate Park Band Shell with bands, awards, recognitions and a guest speaker—Dr. Frederic Luskin, author of Forgive for Good. Others celebrations will take place in Washington, Oregon, Hawaii and Croatia, to name a few places.

Plath said he was recently awakened in the wee hours of the morning by a phone call—from Ghana. On the other end of the line was a man from Ghana who said they were planning a celebration and the president of Ghana was going to attend.

Plath said many churches in the United States also plan to observe International Forgiveness Day.

Part of the celebration, as suggested by the WFA, involves recognizing a hero or champion of forgiveness. Plath said heroes are distinguished from champions in that champions do significant work in the field of forgiveness, whereas heroes are known for their acts of forgiveness.

Plath rhetorically asked, “How about if you had heroes of forgiveness, reconciliation and peace?” He said societies need such role models—both for children and adults.

Past holidays have honored Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi.

Plath said those who participate in forgiveness celebrations are transformed.

“Everybody that shows up has always felt that it had a healing effect on them,” he said. “It’s inspirational. When they come out the other side, they’re pretty powerful. If you really come to real healing and love, it’s sort of like a rebirth in a way, and they’re powerful.”

International Forgiveness Day is not an official day, “but we would like to see it become that,” Plath said, noting that the WFA has much to do to make that happen. “There’s never been an international holiday.”

The WFA’s Web site offers information (the WFA’s mission, board, celebrations) and resources (how to create your own observance, heroes of forgiveness, articles on forgiveness).

Plath said the day emphasizes all types of forgiveness.

“It’s all forgiveness,” he said. “It’s forgiveness with debts, forgiveness between nations, forgiveness of everything there is to forgive where you have resentments or prejudices.”

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.

Visit the Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance.

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