Finnish Group Pushes for Forgiveness Emoji

While there are emojis of almost every kind, there is no symbol representing forgiveness.

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Emojis are wildly popular among mobile phone and social media users. While there are emojis of almost every kind imaginable, spanning from dinosaurs to joyful tears and eggplants, there is no emoji representing forgiveness. Seeing the need to promote understanding and reconciliation, a Finnish collective decided it was time for a “forgiveness” emoji.

Emojis are such a popular way of communicating, 900 million of them are sent daily without text via Facebook Messenger, according to World Emoji Day. Because text alone can’t always convey emotional intent, millions of people use the digital icons to pepper their digital communication.

Every year, the Unicode Consortium, which sets the standards for the pictographs, adds new emojis to the emoji keyboard commonly accessed on mobile phones and computers. In 2019, the list of new emojis introduced some symbols focused on inclusivity, such as an ear with a hearing aid and a person in a wheelchair, as seen on Emojipedia.

In 2019, the Forgivemoji campaign was launched. This was done with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and several Finnish nonprofit organizations including the Helsinki Deaconess Foundation.

Forgivemoji’s site featured an open call to the public to submit their designs for a new forgiveness emoji, with the goal of presenting the symbol to the Unicode Consortium and an eventual public adoption of the digital icon. 

Tuomo Pesonen, communications director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, explained why the forgiveness emoji is needed in today’s world. “In our modern digital communication culture, emojis are an essential way of expressing human feelings beyond words,” he said in a press release by Kaiku

“Through crowdsourcing ideas for the design of an emoji for forgiveness, this campaign strives to promote a message of peace and mutual understanding the world over,” he added.

Antti Pentikäinen from the Deaconess Foundation told The Guardian that forgiveness is critical in creating peace. “Without it, conflicts continue in cycles and get worse,” he said. “We urgently need to learn better how to reconcile. These skills are needed everywhere. Different ways to encourage apologizing and forgiveness are an essential part of it, and this includes the social media environment.” 

The campaign gained popularity, reaching over two million people around the world according to the press release. They received many submissions including a bandaged heart, two ethnicities holding hands, and people from different cultures hugging.

After hundreds of people submitted their ideas for this emoji, the winner was announced in February, 2020. Former Finnish president Tarja Halonen was selected to choose the winner as she has been instrumental in building bridges between people, according to a Kaiku press release

The emoji that will be presented to the Unicode Consortium is an image of two hands giving a thumbs-up symbol in front of a heart. If the Consortium accepts the design, it will become available to the public in late 2021. 

The Forgivemoji campaign goes far beyond having an impact on social media and the virtual sphere. The message of prioritizing forgiveness and reconciliation is helpful for the world at large.

Promoting a culture of apology and understanding is critical for both civil discourse and personal relationships. An emoji may seem like a humble place to begin, but it’s an important start.

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