It’s a tough question… could you forgive someone who did you wrong?
A story in today’s news caught my eye:
Forgive Iraqi captors, former hostages plead.
Three former hostages urge forgiveness for Iraqi captors.
Spare Iraqi kidnappers, Loney pleads.
James Loney, Harmeet Singh Sooden and Norman Kember, three members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, were taken hostage in 2005 and were freed 117 days later in March 2006. The three spoke at a press conference on Friday, arguing that although their alleged captors were wrong in their actions, they do not deserve the death penalty if convicted.
Loney was quoted as saying, “We have no desire to punish them. Punishment can never restore what was taken from us. What our captors did was wrong. They caused us, our families and friends great suffering. Yet we bear no malice towards them and have no wish for retribution.”
Loney was further quoted as saying, “By this commitment to forgiveness, we hope to plant a seed that one day will bear the fruits of healing and reconciliation for us, our captors…and most of all, Iraq”.
Difficult stuff… what would you do? How would you react? I, for one, would have a difficult time forgiving someone for such an offensive deed. I would like to think that I would be able to have mercy and to forgive, but that’s easy to say from the comfort of my peaceful life. And, I think it would be even more challenging had this happened to one of my close friends or family members. But again, my sheltered life prevents me from understanding the anger, pain and frustration that must accompany such a difficult ordeal.
That being said, I think that Loney, Sooden and Kember’s gentle voices speak to an ideal that comes with much reflection and a great deal of commitment to furthering peaceful dialogue with a group that, rightly or wrongly, feels that they are defending their freedom. I know that this won’t sit well with many who have suffered at the hands of Islamic violence, but there is some value in at least considering a peaceful response. Without forgiveness, there can be no peace. On either side. But, with justification for anger on both sides, forgiveness is difficult to achieve.
I don’t want to trivialize this situation, but consider the basic ways in which conflict is resolved. Consider two children fighting on the playground at school. I don’t know about your experiences, but for me, a solution that I’ve seen applied time and again is to have both children apologize for their contributions to the fight, to shake hands and agree not to continue fighting, and then to encourage healing and friendship between the two kids.
Why can’t these same principles be applied on the larger world scale? Is the violence any more complicated? Not really… one side has done the other wrong. The justifications might be more complex, but does it make the actions any more correct? When is it right to kill? Especially in the name of peace? There are some serious contradictions to any argument that uses “killing” and “peace” in the same solution. And I’m not alone in that thinking.
I’ll leave the door open to further discussion on this one… I’ve said enough for one day. But I’ll revisit this again soon.
What are your thoughts? Could you forgive? Do you think forgiveness is a virtue? Or, do you think that forgiveness a weakness?