Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Deep compassionate forgiveness

Former Christian Peacemaker Teams Hostages Harmeet Singh Sooden and James Loney Remember Murdered Colleague Tom Fox and Explain Why They Forgive Their Captors is a Democracy Now interview and story which begins in November 2005, over a year ago. A team of Christian oriented peacemakers was kidnapped while they worked for peace in Iraq. They were held for 118 days, and one of the team members was killed by the kidnappers. A few days ago Authorities captured one or more of the people who kidnapped and held these people. The team members have, as a response to being asked to testify in an upcoming trial, called for unconditional forgiveness of their captors and forgiveness of all involved with the conflict with Iraq.

These people are giving us an interesting and very public demonstration of forgiveness in action. They were clearly "wronged" by the standards of any human. In the interview you can clearly hear their struggle between the desire for some kind of retribution, for the payment of the time during which their liberty was denied, and the depth of their spiritual stand.

Since September 11, 2001 this idea has returned to me over and over: Violence piled upon violence only begets more violence

The use of the word begets is purposeful, in that there is a biblical element to the struggle in the middle east. And as we think back over time we see how none of the retributions conducted for past aggressions managed to prevent future aggressions.

The principle of forgiveness is very well stated by the people in this interview. There is a futility in seeking retribution for some act of violence. Seeking retribution only continues the cycle of violence and it cannot erase the past act of violence. The moving finger having writ the deeds which occur now, move on and no act of Man can undo the truth of what happened in the past.

Consider ... something happens to you .. you seek "justice" and "retribution" .. you get to confront your attacker, smack them around a bit or worse .. and then, what? How do you feel afterwards? Have you managed to erase anything? Or have you instead stooped to the depths to which they sank in attacking you? What does attacking them say about you? Would they feel justified in attacking you again because you attacked them?

The continuing Israel and Palestinian war is a huge example of retribution gone awry. They are continually attacking one another over past grievances, and after nearly 60 years of conflict have not been able to resolve anything. An eye for an eye is quickly leaving them all very blind.

Instead forgiveness is a divine process of healing. You begin by realizing the extent of the harm done to you, and then you let go, you give up all thoughts of retribution or repayment.

It is a difficult path to follow. The human ego really wants retribution.