A large literature shows that interpersonal forgiveness provides many positive mental and physical health benefits. However, there is little research about the role of forgiveness in the context of systemic injustice. This study is a preliminary exploration of how individuals with refugee backgrounds perceived forgiveness as it related to their experiences of systemic injustice and the extent to which forgiveness may be associated with well-being. Seven interviews were conducted with Iranian refugees. The data were analyzed using thematic analysis. The findings of this study indicate that forgiveness is an important concept for people with refugee backgrounds and that it can have a positive impact on their well-being. However, this differed between interpersonal and systemic transgressions.
Forgiveness refers to the positive transformation of a suite of interrelated cognitive, affective, behavioral, and motivational responses that a victim experiences in response to a transgressor (e.g., McCullough et al., 1998). There are well-established positive outcomes for mental health following forgiveness in interpersonal contexts (Griffin, Worthington, Lavelock, Wade, & Hoyt, 2015). However, less is known about outcomes of forgiveness following systemic injustice, such as that often experienced by refugees or asylum seekers. As such, the present study aimed to explore the extent to which the concept of forgiveness is relevant or useful at a theoretical and practical level for this group of people, as well as the extent to which refugees and asylum seekers themselves feel that forgiveness may affect health and well-being.