The Garden of Forgiveness Beirut was originally conceived by Alexandra Asseily in 1997 as a place of calm reflection, sheltered from the bustle of the city and expressing themes of understanding, forgiveness and unity.
Nestled between mosques and churches, and integrating archaeological remains of surviving city layers, Hadiqat-As-Samah aims to offer unique insights into earlier civilizations, demonstrating a shared ancestry that predates the recent conflict. By displaying these layers of civilizations, the garden will “use foundations of the past to build foundations for the future.” In its proximity to the wartime Green Line that divided the city and became the focus of conflict, the Garden of Forgiveness is to provide a meeting point where individuals can reflect on their collective memory and nurture a renewed sense of common identity. These are captured in the Design Brief that Alexandra Asseily wrote for for the Garden at Hadiqat-As-Samah.
This is a short film of conversations featuring Alexandra Asseily, Pastor James Wuye and Imam Muhammad Ashafa of Nigeria on the notion of forgiveness during their visit to the site designated for the Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut, Lebanon.
Story so far ..
In March 2000 the international competition for the design of the garden was won by ‘Gustafson Porter’, who have also created many other prestigious international projects. The master plan for the site was approved by the Council of Ministers in June 2001. Plans of The Garden of Forgiveness were shown at the Van Alen Institute in New York in 2002 in their ‘Renewing, Rebuilding, Remembering’ exhibition. The Garden of Forgiveness was also featured in the exhibition ‘Groundswell – Constructing the Contemporary Landscape’ at the MoMA, New York, 22nd February to 16 May, 2005.
Construction of the Beirut Garden of Forgiveness started in September 2003. However, work on public spaces in central Beirut has been halted since July 2006 due to an Israeli air attack. Nevertheless the site has been visited by many international groups and individuals who accord their respects by reflecting and praying there for forgiveness and peace.There are now a number of other projects around the world for Gardens of Forgiveness, and many which propose forgiveness as a response within a range of contexts. The Garden of Forgiveness is featured in the film ‘The Power of Forgiveness‘
For a theoretical background on this, please refer to her paper Breaking the Cycles of Violence and her article ‘Exploring stories to find the storyteller‘, or within the book edition entitled ‘Exploring Selfhood‘.