Forgiveness is a special quality which is a very special gift of God to select few. It is very difficult to comprehend – how one afflicted or tortured by the other forgives the one who has wounded one’s very life and family. How can one forgive the perpetrators of this horrific crime? Would the sufferer not like to send the culprit behind the bars or appeal for death sentence to the court? Will the victim’s family members not ask for justice in the case wherein they have lost someone very precious to them?
There are many questions which may confuse our minds and shake our very being with regard to some tragic incidents of ‘ghastly attack’. Most of the times we have no answers to these questions. But with time great tides are crossed. We happen to feel sorry, start thinking, get answers of hope and trust, begin to love and forgive to seek inner healing. On the one side forgiveness heals and transforms the sufferer or victim and on the other side the perpetrator or villain of gory crime repents and changes forever. All this happens with the grace of God, who loves us all.
Forgiveness heals sores
Forgiveness is like a balm that heals inner wounds. The power of forgiveness heals life and sets people free from bondages. It not only heals people from various physical deformities and disorders but also from spiritual dissatisfaction and disliking. Personal anger, hurts, grudges, pent up emotions are released when individuals let go of their inner self through forgiveness. It emboldens the joy of being a new creation since the mind, heart and soul rejuvenates people into an entirely different being. This spiritual longing activates spiritual growth and transformation along with this healing of all inner blockages through love.
Though most of the times it is difficult to forgive in normal human situations. Despite that an inner voice vibrates within to choose goodness over evil and forgiveness over vengeance. Through awareness of spiritual energy we can touch into a higher, lighter vibration that supports the release of judgments and pain. The ultimate outcome is that the person feels relieved, relaxed and happy about oneself and others.
Forget in order to Forgive
In this way, even the harsh neighbours unite in love, bitter enemies become friends, archrivals opt for dialogue, nations come together for peace and ungodly turns godly. Jesus speaks of the importance of Christian forgiving or showing mercy towards others in these words, “But I tell you who hear me: ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also,’” (Luke 6:27-29). This message of forgiveness was also the theme of movie Lage Raho Munna Bhai, wherein Sanjay Dutt showed the other cheek as told to him by Mahatma Gandhi, ‘Bapuji’.
One cannot deny this natural tendency that “when one completely forgets, one surely forgives” but it’s very difficult to forgive someone who hurts. It cannot be forced, if one has been abused, neglected, or treated cruelly, or has suffered trauma at the hands of others; especially in the cases of molestation, harassment, rapes, domestic violence, child abuse, murder, mob lynching, brutal assaults, communal violence, terror attacks, etc. But if the victim goes out of his or her very self to forgive the culprit then it’s a humanly divine gesture. For who, but only God has power to forgive and heal; and we are the medium of this divine healing. A healing which brings peace and love between human beings, who though are one, but yet different due to languages, castes, traditions and religions. Therefore, forgiveness is a state of being that emerges from love and self emptying oneself.
Forgive, and you will be forgiven
The brutal and heinous murder of an Australian missionary Graham Stewart Staines, and his two sons, Phillip and Timothy on 22-23 January, 1999 sent shiver in the spine of everyone 20 years back. It not only shook the nation but also shocked the world at large. They first arrived to Baripada in 1965 and thereafter stayed in Orissa, India. They worked with the tribal poor and lepers since then. Some Hindu groups alleged that Staines had forcibly converted many Hindus into Christianity, but Gladys denied these allegations.
Once, Jesus was approached by Peter, who asked him: “How many times must I forgive those who wrong me? Up to seven times? Jesus gave him a simple reply, “I tell you not seven times but seventy times seven.” Elsewhere, it is said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37).
This Biblical saying becomes alive w hen it comes to Gladys Staines, who by forgiving the perpetrators of her husband Graham Staines and their two sons, Philip and Timothy, said, “I hold no bitterness towards the killers.” She respected the SC judgment of giving lifer to Dara Singh and Mahendra Hembram. “Forgiveness is needed to check hatred and violence…God forgives but the earthly consequences of that sin continue…Forgiveness does not change the consequences for the wrong. [The two] should not be mixed up,” said Gladys, who was conferred the Padma Shri in 2005.
She continued to live in India caring for leprosy patients until she returned to Australia in 2004. Whatever may be the case but one thing is absolutely clear that Gladys has forgiven the persons who killed her family. In 2016, she received the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award for Social Justice. Condemning the incident in hardest words the then President of India K. R. Narayanan said, “Staines’ murder was a monumental aberration of time-tested tolerance and harmony. The killings belong to the world’s inventory of black deeds.”
Love until you Forgive
There are many incidents where supreme act of love and forgiveness are fully visible. I would like to narrate two such incidents where both victims and perpetrators were completely transformed. The recent film by Aamir Khan Productions on 26th January, Rubaru Roshni tells three personal testimonies through first-person narratives of both victims and villains of violent crimes and explores the power of forgiveness traversing three decades in India. The second story in the film is about Sr. Rani Maria Vattalil FCC who selflessly dedicated her life in service and empowerment of the tribal people at Udainagar, Indore.
In the first incident, Samunder Singh hired by some landlords, stabbed Sr. Rani Maria 54 times at Nachanbore Hill near Indore inside a bus on 25th February, 1995, 24 years ago. Sr. Selmy filled with Jesus’ divine grace and love forgave Samunder Singh, the murderer of Sr. Rani Maria. Sr. Selmy visited him in Indore central jail on Raksha Bandhan in August 2002, where he was repeatedly asking for forgiveness for his wrong doing. Through the kind gesture of tying a Rakhi on his wrist, Rani’s sister, a nun, changed his heart and mind. She said, “All of us have forgiven you. Do not keep anything in your heart. Be good to everyone.”
The second incident happened with the Late Pope John Paul II who went to the prison to offer forgiveness to Agca who had attempted to assassinate him in Vatican Square. In these real forgiving acts the true Christian values of Jesus stands taller before hatred and violence. This is what, the Saviour of the world, Lord Jesus Christ taught to the world before dying on the Cross – Love until you Forgive. When he was about to die he prayed for his enemies saying: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” He also said, “Love one another as I have loved you (Jn. 13:34) .” In another place he said that – Thou shall love your neighbour as you love yourself. And even important than these two commandments – Jesus gave the one of supreme love saying, “Love your enemy as you love yourself.” Gladys Staines did the same in her action in spite of losing her dear ones. She forgave to the point of forgetting the gruesome incident that occurred in Manoharpur, Keonjhar district in 1999.
Based on this true story Skypass Entertainment is releasing its first film on 1st February in the US, The Least of These directed by Aneesh Daniel. He says, “It is the nature of the parable that said ‘what you have done to the least of these, you have done to me also.’ Graham cared for the lepers because he was caring for Christ. Gladys forgave the accused because she was demonstrating that love. Simple yet complex.” Executive Producer Victor Abraham adds about the film, “It beautifully illustrates the power of love, hope, and forgiveness to overcome hate.”
Thus, Christianity believes that a person should be given enough opportunities to change his or her life for it is easy to take life than to give. Above all, one must not forget that forgiveness works as a miracle medicine to get spiritual healing from inner sores. When this miracle happens in the life of both the victim and villain – the person transforms into becoming humanly divine and divinely humane.
(The writer is a freelance journalist and educationist.)
(Published on 04th February 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 06)