Sawbonna: Godde and Another Route to Forgiveness by Margot Van Sluytman

From the day my Father, Theodore, was brutally and callously murdered in Toronto, on Easter Monday, March 27, 1978, I wanted to meet his killer. I wanted to know how it was possible to do such a horrific thing. I wanted to know how he felt about destroying the lives of so many; my family’s, and his own.

We did meet. The meeting occurred in July of 2007. Because of reading about an award I received for my Therapeutic Writing Workshops and the publication of my books about healing, voice, and agency, he emailed me. Our meeting, our reconciliation, even those many years after that dark, dark day, was a rich blessing in my life, and proved helpful for him too.

The word forgiveness, is one that can lead to great suffering for victims and offenders alike. Victims are told that if they do not forgive, they cannot heal. Offenders are told that if they are not forgiven, they cannot move on from the crime they have committed. Forgiveness is a loaded word, with as many understandings, expectations, and definitions as there are experiences of savage loss, savage grief, savage pain.

In 2012, after too many years of thinking that my life did indeed end with my Father’s, I completed a Master’s Thesis. The title: Sawbonna-Justice as Lived-Experience. Sawbonna means shared-humanity. It also means I see you, you see me.

Sawbonna means that no one is better in the eyes of Godde. It means that we are good, bad, ugly, amazing, loved, loving, and free. Free to know that whether we can forgive or are forgiven by another human being, we are deeply known, cared-for, and embraced by Godde. A Godde who invites us, gently and generously directly back into our very own hearts. Hearts of love. Hearts of justice. Hearts of Sawbonna. We are seen. We each matter.

(Inspired by Carol P. Christ)
(From my upcoming book, New Poems)
Keepers of the Feminine
Daughters of Wisdom,
Suckled on courage
Nourished on Grace,
Dark nights of soulless
Pernicious posturing
Will not stop you.
Your Wild Wisdom
Is the very conduit for
She Who Knows.
She Who IS.
She who changes.
Fertile dawn is Her sigh.
And every calamity is Her
Voicing of justice and only justice.
A justice that will not be satisfied
By power-over. And endless threats.
©Margot Van Sluytman, Palabras Press, 2015

The Sawbonna Project for Living Justice, CBC


Margot Van Sluytman’s father was brutally murdered in an armed robbery in Toronto, Canada, when she was only 16 years of age. It was an event that changed her life forever. She wrote to express pain and to heal, never knowing it would instigate a passion within her to formulate a new social justice theory: Sawbonna*. Never knowing that she would birth books about therapeutic writing, which mentor about: reconciliation and resilience; voice and agency. Her books include: Birthing the Celibate Soul; Sing My Spine-A Response to the Song of Songs; Dance With Your Healing-Tears Let Me Begin to Speak; and, The Other Inmate: Survivor Voice Matters Too.

Margot is the founder of The Sawbonna Project for Living Justice, and an award-winning poet, sought-after speaker, advocate, activist, and political influencer, whose work is shared internationally. Her lived-mantra is that the personal is the political.

In 2000, she was gifted with the Spirit Name, Raven Speaks.

*Sawbonna (also spelled sawubona) is a Zula greeting meaning “I see you.” It acknowledges our shared-humanity in all of its complexity.

The Sawbonna Project for Living Justice, CBC Edmonton

Sawbonna: A New Model of Restorative Justice, CBC Thunder Bay


3 thoughts on “Sawbonna: Godde and Another Route to Forgiveness by Margot Van Sluytman”

  1. Thank you Margot, for sharing your work. Our shared humanity is such a powerful reality
    and so easily forgotten. It seems to me to be intimately related to compassion, which is the path for my own healing of childhood abuse.


  2. Thank you. I long ago realized that to forgive or not is entirely up to the individual, and that healing is possible, with or without forgivenss. Foregivness is helpful, it is not a requirement.

    For what we have done that needs forgiveness, again, we cannot count on the person/s forgiving us. It comes down to, hopefuly, fogiving ourselves. Whether that is necessary for healing, I am not sure.


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