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By Mary-Louise O’Callaghan

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (PFNet, July 1 ) -- The ground-breaking Winds of Change Conference witnessed a moving and unique act of forgiveness.

Susan Kukiti of Guadalcanal Province at the closing of the conference on Thursday 24 June publicly declared that she had forgiven the Malaitan men who beheaded her brother and dumped his body in the Central Market in April 2000.

Kukiti’s cousin-brother, David Mare, an easy going and friendly guy who worked at Solomon Tobacco went missing one night in April 2000, just weeks before the coup.

The manner of his death and subsequent dumping of his body at the Central Market was a signal to many Solomon Islanders that their nation was reaching crisis point.

"We did not know at first that it was our brother," Kukiti said yesterday. "Because they had beheaded him, they had trouble identifying the body."

Kukiti said to this day she still did not know who exactly had killed her brother or whether anyone had been charged with his murder.

But on the last day of the Winds of Change Conference she told the conference that she had decided to forgive her brother’s killers after hearing the story of South African mother, Ginn Fourie, who addressed the conference on Wednesday with Letlapa Mmphalele - the man who ordered the attack, which killed her daughter, Lyndi Fourie in 1993.

"I have never showed to anyone that my pain was so great, I never spoke about it but it was still inside," Fourie said.

"Then when I heard Ginn yesterday (23rd June) and saw that she can have forgiveness for this kind of people then I thought, I think I can do this too."

Malaitans participating in the conference then came forward to say sorry and pray with Kukiti, many breaking down with her, including the chairwoman of the conference committee, Judith Fangalasuu who later said the experience had been very healing.

"I’ve known Susan through her work at our church but I did not know she had lost her brother as she was always very calm and never displayed anything against Malaitans.

"So I was very moved that all this time I did not know what my people had done to her family and yet she is willing to forgive us publicly."

Both women urged all Solomon Islanders, who have suffered such a loss of relatives or loved ones to search in their heart and forgive those responsible.

July 2, 2004

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