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Monday, December 04, 2006

To Forgive is Godliness


At the drop of a feather we complain...of fate and bad-luck...of going through bad days, suffering the most..etc etc.


The following is an article taken from
"THE HINDU - SUNDAY MAGAZINE" Issue dated 3, December 2006

Being a critique of US myself, this article overwhelmed me....humbled i am, in front of these people....from the US themselves.


Wish everyone could be as forgiveful as these people are.

...........Wish i could be as forgiveful as these humans are



REFLECTIONS

Strength to forgive


VIVEK PINTO


It takes courage, as the Amish recently demonstrated, to show grace in the face of tremendous pain and grief.

Scene of tragedy: The schoolhouse has since been demolished.

THE tragic massacre at the Amish schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, on October 2, will probably sear in American memory for years to come. The awe-inspiring response from the Amish parents whose children were murdered and the Amish community that has confounded America and the world.

Charles Carl Roberts IV, a 32-year-old local milk-truck driver, stormed into the rural school house carrying a small arsenal on Monday morning. He then lined up the students, all girls, aged 6 to 13, against the blackboard, tied them together by their feet, and shot five of them in the head; five others were seriously injured and hospitalised. Later, he shot himself as police burst into the building. It was America's third deadly school shooting in less than a week.

A nation shaken

If what happened at the West Nickel Mines school were just another massacre, then American newspapers wouldn't give it more than a small column, buried deep in the inside pages. At the most there would be an op-ed making the regular plea to U.S. legislators [most of whom avail, especially in campaign funds, of the largesse of the National Rifle Association (NRA), a powerful lobby devoted to promoting and securing the rights of Americans to carry arms] and arms dealers to tighten access to guns and mandate criminal background checks on gun purchases in America. At the same time, the influential NRA would, with the charismatic actor Charlton Heston as its spokesperson, promote gun ownership rights "freedom in its truest sense", adeptly and successfully lobby the U.S. Congress and the media to turn a deaf-ear and roll-back whatever stricter measures were envisaged.

But, the Nickel Mines school is Amish and that has made all the difference in explaining why this massacre has gripped America's conscience, made international headlines, attracted the world media, and reported in-depth for more than a week in leading U.S. newspapers and television.

Who are the Amish and what is so distinctive about them? The Amish, also known as Anabaptists, are a Christian denomination, though separate from mainstream Christians in many ways. They do not serve in the military, draw federal retirement benefits or accept any other forms of government assistance. They hold fast to an 18th-century lifestyle which makes them renounce "modern amenities" such as electricity, plumbing, automobiles, television, radio, music, video games, and mobile phones. They live mostly by crop and dairy farming. Their life is exemplified by piety and simplicity. The media and Hollywood, in the film "Witness" (1985), have caricatured the Amish, portraying them as idealistic, quaint, and almost Luddite.

Faith and forgiveness

What is distinct about the Amish is their belief, known as "a path that has heart", one of whose aspects is forgiveness. Forgiveness "is woven into the fabric of Amish faith", with historical roots in the Anabaptist martyrs who "yielded their life completely to God". "The Martyrs Mirror (1660) which tells of the martyr stories, is found in many Amish houses and is cited by preachers in their sermons." Hence, speechless as it would leave us, it was that before "blood was hardly dry on the bare, board floor of the West Nickel Mines school . . . the Amish parents (of the children who were massacred) sent words of forgiveness to the family of the killer who had executed their children." This is what has stunned not only America but the world, especially at a time when hate, revenge, vengeance, violence, and sheer malice against one another in the name of religion reverberate and fill our newspapers. Here is another way: a refusal to meet violence with violence, but to greet violence with forgiveness.

How can one forgive such a heinous crime? Can this really be true? Yes, in deed, and there is much more to this notable, religious act practised so ingenuously, insistently, and intentionally by the Amish community of Nickel Mines.

In fact, two of the survivors of the shooting told their parents that, "13-year-old Marian Fisher, one of the slain girls, apparently hoping the younger girls would be let go (said to the killer) `shoot me and leave the other ones loose,'" according to Leroy Zook, an Amish dairy farmer.

What is so amazing is that the Amish, writes Professor Donald Kraybill of Elizabethtown College and author of many books on Amish life, "are better equipped to process grief than are many other Americans. Their faith sees even tragic events under the canopy of divine providence, having a higher purpose or meaning hidden from human sight at first glance. The Amish don't argue with God. They have an enormous capacity to absorb adversity — a willingness to yield to divine providence in the face of hostility. Such religious resolve enables them to move forward without the endless paralysis of analysis that asks why, letting the analysis rest in the hands of God."

Refusing violence

The Amish, by their simple practice of forgiveness, have made us reflect that all religions have the seminal roots of mercy, forgiveness, love, non-violence, and compassion. Mahatma Gandhi called it the capacity of self-suffering (tapas) which is the true path (marg) to non-violence (ahimsa) and satyagraha (resistance rooted in love and non-violence). Gandhi regularly practised and gave public witness to it in the struggle to free India. The Amish are the modern day witnesses of this message to forgive and the courageous refusal to get drawn into automaton retaliation.

The forgiveness which the Amish have practised both at the individual and community level, continues Kraybill, "springs from the example of Jesus, the cornerstone of Amish faith... the Amish take the life and teachings of Jesus seriously. Without formal creeds, their simple (but not simplistic) faith accents living the way of Jesus rather than comprehending the complexities of religious doctrine... Beyond his example, the Amish try to practise Jesus' admonitions to turn the other cheek, to love one's enemies, to forgive 70 times seven, and to leave vengeance to the Lord. Retaliation and revenge are not part of their vocabulary." That is why at the burial of Charles Carl Roberts IV on Saturday, October 7, just a few miles from the one-room schoolhouse he stormed on Monday, "about half of perhaps 75 mourners on hand were Amish." Rev. Bruce Porter, a fire department chaplain from distant Morrison, Colorado, who was present, said, "It's the love, the forgiveness, the heartfelt forgiveness they (the Amish) have towards the family. I broke down and cried seeing it displayed."

If going the proverbial extra mile were necessary, it's reported that the widow of Charles Carl Robert IV, with their three small children, "have been invited to join the Amish community and will be accepted." We stand in utter awe of the Amish Community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, for reminding us in the face of such tremendous pain and grief of the strength of forgiveness.

Some more reading on the Amish Community...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish
http://www.hindu.com/mag/2005/11/27/stories/2005112700490800.htm

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