Saturday, March 7, 2009

True Acts of Forgiveness...

Approximately 3 hours from metropolitan NY is Lancaster, PA, one of the many settlements of The Amish. Having visited there many times, I still find their simplistic lifestyle absolutely fascinating. I love learning about them and their private style, belief in God and their commitment to their communities that force them together while living in the heart of the pressures from the outside world. What stands out and I frequently reminisce about is their unequivocal act of forgiveness. The idea of forgiveness is the heart of the Amish culture and belief system. We all must remember the tragic shooting that occurred in Lancaster in October, 2006 when a gunman attacked a one-room school house and killed five girls (before committing suicide). The emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was widely discussed in the media. The West Nickel Mines School was torn down, and a new one-room schoolhouse, the New Hope School, was built at another location. After this massacre, donations to the community amounted to over 4 million dollars. The Amish community in the truest act of kindness and forgiveness donated a large amount of money to the wife of the murderer. Members of this community wanted to show forgiveness to the gunman.

In May, 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot in the abdomen and hand in St. Peter's Square and seriously wounded. The pope spent 22 days in a hospital. Pole John Paul II went to the prison where his would-be assassin was, they talked for 20 minutes ~ the Pope forgave him for the shooting. At the end of the meeting, Agca (the gunman) pressed the Pope's hand to his forehead in a Muslim gesture of respect. It too was a startling drama of forgiveness and reconciliation; it was an intensely intimate transaction between two men. The Pope allowed this to be photographed, he wanted the image in that cell to be shown around a world. These are two remarkable acts of forgiveness that have stayed with me...the media attention made that possible, not all acts of forgiveness will gain this attention....not all acts of kindness are meant to. What meaning is more profound than to embrace and forgive.

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