When my family is attacked I become extremely defensive.  Forgiving someone who hurt me is far easier than forgiving someone who hurt one of my children.  There are times when forgiving seems  impossible.  Words fail to in any way describe the pain and loss of  Corporal Nathan Cirillo’s family and Warrant Officer’s Patrice Vincent’s family.
Yet against all the anger, pain, and grief – people manage to reach out.  The Globe and Mail reports;

In a statement released on Friday, relatives of the slain soldier [Warrent Officer Patrice Vincent] offered support for the family members of Mr. Couture-Rouleau, who had tried to deal with his increasingly militant views.  ‘Our thoughts … go to the Couture-Rouleau family, who are living through difficult moments,’ the statement said.  The statement also offered condolences to the family of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was shot by a lone attacker on Wednesday in Ottawa. ‘We share your sorrow and all our heart is with you.’  The statement said WO Vincent was very proud to serve in the Canadian Forces. ‘His loss leaves an immense void in our hearts,’ it said.

Family of killed Quebec soldier reaches out to attacker’s relatives, TU THANH HA, The Globe and Mail, Published Friday, Oct. 24 2014

And what of the killers?  It’s very difficult to have compassion or forgiveness for them.  Zehaf-Bibeau’s mother describes her son’s mental and spiritual condition

At the heart of this tragedy, she wrote, is mental illness. Bibeau said her son, who police have said was raised in Montreal, had a serious addiction to drugs, which surely affected his mental state. His conversations were strange — he often spoke of the devil, for instance — leading the family to wonder, “Was he crazy?”

The family tried to help, but he resisted it.

He was an unhappy person who was “at odds with the world,” and so he turned to religion and Islam as a way to make sense of it, Bibeau wrote.

Because religion is not something she can easily relate to, conversations were often one-sided, with him doing the talking and her doing the listening.

(National Post, “Ottawa shooting by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was ‘last desperate act’ of a mentally ill person, his mother writes”,
Douglas Quan, Postmedia News, October 25, 2014)

Forgiving is a deeply spiritual choice as is taking vengeance or hatred.  In world where  little attention is paid to the spiritual dimension of life, it is still possible to find beautiful expressions of forgiveness.  David’s story of forgiving those who beat him senseless because he belonged to a ‘different tribe’ is stirring example:

David was walking along the city streets when a group of young men approached him. They were from a different tribe than David. Because of recent tribal tensions, this was reason enough to want David dead. The group surrounded David and began relentlessly beating him and throwing rocks at him.  A group of soldiers found David lying on the street with several cuts and bruises, barely alive. They brought him to a hospital, where he made a gradual recovery.

David’s heart  did not become a victim of hatred and the lust for revenge ;

When David came to the Bible study, he was quite thin,” said the missionaries. “He and his wife were living off only her wages because David was too afraid to return to the streets where he had been so badly beaten.”

After a few months, David heard a knock on the door. It was the soldiers and they had captured the men who were responsible for his attack. The soldiers were there to offer David a chance for revenge—a front row seat as they would beat up the group of men.

But the lessons in forgiveness were hard at work in David’s heart.

“David refused,” said the missionaries. “He said he could never give someone permission to do to another human being what had been done to him. He said that he forgave them and was praying that they would have new hearts.”

Since the attack, David’s health has improved and he has gained back much of his weight. mPraise God for healing this man and for the Christ-like example that he has demonstrated. Continue to pray with him that others will follow Christ as a result of his actions.

A TRUE TEST OF FORGIVENESS, Christian Reformed Church, October 15, 2014

Terrorism is tribal.  Domestic terrorism, lone wolf terrorism, international terrorism, religious, ideological and political terrorism all have  spiritual tap roots that sink deep into a primordial hatred of ‘us against them’.   How do we protect ourselves from it?  How do we ‘fight’ it?   What modern sociological, forensic, economic and political strategies are available and effective to deal with something rooted far deeper than modern institutions and postmodern mindsets?  How can we be free of the prison terrorism places us in?

Around two thousand years ago a young Jewish teacher brought a radical message to His people;

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

He was executed and as He was dying His cry was for forgiveness for those who were killing Him;

When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One”. (Luke 23:33-35)

After any terrible tragedy involving the death of innocent people when the immediate emotions of anger, outrage and fear subside we will be faced with a choice.  Hopefully, reflecting on  the spiritual dimension of reality will guide our thinking.  We can choose to harden our hearts and enter terror’s prison cell or we can reach out beyond ourselves to freedom.

Lest we forget to forgive.

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