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Monday, April 2, 2018

A Way out of Hell - Forgive Them for They Know Not What They Do


It is so good to read this piece by Rohit Kumar; God bless him.

One of the best articles I have read on saving people from hell.  Yesterday, I wrote in my Blog admiring two heroes – Imam of Asansol and father of Ankit Sharma and I hope Mr. Modi, the Prime Minister, will take a bold step and celebrate these two individuals as our national heroes.  May God help the PM to do the righteous deed and encourage what is right.   These two men have restored Dharma that was promised by Lord Krishna, and have taught us how to build a peaceful India upon which prosperity rests.

Thanks to Wire for producing great articles for Indians, we have to wake up our fellow beings, and the wire is appreciated for that.

Mike Ghouse
Center for Pluralism

A Way out of Hell - Forgive Them for They Know Not What They Do

On Easter, a look at people who, by avenging wrongs done unto them, could have instigated communal riots and yet chose to take the difficult high road of forgiveness.

There is a scene towards the end of Richard Attenborough’s 1982 movie, Gandhi, where the late Om Puri, playing the role of a Hindu man whose son had been killed by Muslims, bursts onto a terrace where Gandhi, weakened by weeks of fasting, is lying on a bed.

The man throws a chapati at Gandhi and shouts, “Eat! I’m going to hell but not with your death on my soul.”

“Only God decides who goes to hell,” the Mahatma responds quietly.
“I killed a child. I smashed his head against a wall!” the man screams.
Gandhi winces and asks, “Why?”

The man’s eyes well up with tears, “They killed my son, my boy. The Muslims killed my son.”

“I know a way out of hell,” Gandhi whispers. “Find a child. A child whose mother and father have been killed. A little boy about this high; raise him as your own. Only be sure that is a Muslim and that you raise him as one.”

The man backs away slowly, with a crazed look on his face, stops, and then turns around and falls at the Mahatma’s feet, sobbing like a child.

I, like countless others, have watched this movie many times over the decades since it first released – sometimes on DVD and sometimes on YouTube, but most often on television when it is shown on October 2. I just realised, however, that I have probably watched it more in the four years since the BJP came to power than in the 32 years preceding it, probably because of the concerted and unabashed way in which powers that currently be, are trying to consign the Mahatma to oblivion, dismantle his legacy and reduce him to a pair of glasses and a logo for an abhiyaan that is attempting to make Bharat swachh.

It is now easier than ever to mock Mohandas and more fashionable than ever to make fun of his foibles. Unfortunately, it has also become easier than ever to question the relevance of the satya and ahimsa he taught in 21st century India. That is, till someone comes along and practices what Gandhi taught and also “shows a way out of hell” by their life and actions.

Consider Imam Rashidi of Asansol, whose son was killed in the communal violence that recently gripped the city. The murder of a 16-year old – and that too the son of a religious leader – is the kind of thing that can envelop a town in communal flames and then burn it to the ground. But the Imam did something completely unexpected. He appealed for peace. A father feeling the greatest pain a human can feel – the loss of a child – did not give in to the desire for revenge.
Instead, he said, “I want peace. My boy has been taken away. I don’t want any more families to lose their loved ones. I don’t want any more houses to burn… I will leave Asansol if there is any kind of retaliation… If you love me, you will not raise a finger. I have been an Imam for the last 30 years. It is important that I give the right message to the people – a message of peace. I need to get over my personal loss.”

The Imam’s response brought tears to my eyes, as it did, apparently to the eyes of those gathered at Eidgah Maidan in Asansol to hear the Imam speak. He showed us a way out of hell.

Earlier this year in New Delhi, Yashpal Saxena, whose only son Ankit Saxena was murdered by the family of the Muslim girl he loved, displayed the same fortitude of spirit when he refused to let the incident become communalised. Of this incident, activist and author Harsh Mander wrote, “By affirming that he bore Muslims no ill will, Yashpal Saxena, whose only son Ankit Saxena was murdered by the family of the Muslim girl he loved, demolished one of the most widely used rationalisations for communal hatred… (He) rejected what I call the Doctrine of Vicarious Guilt… the idea that an entire community must collectively carry the guilt for crimes – real or imagined, committed now or in history – which any of its members may have perpetrated.”

Yashpal Saxena too, through his grief and pain, has shown us a way out of hell.
And who can ever forget that most brutal of murders fifteen years ago when Graham Staines, a missionary in the jungles of Orissa was burned alive along with his two sons by members of the Bajrang Dal. His bereaved widow, Gladys Staines, in what must have been the most difficult decision of her life, managed to look past her own grief and responded with, “I have forgiven the killers and have no bitterness because forgiveness brings healing and our land needs healing from hatred and violence.”

Her words, published and broadcast far and wide in newspapers and on TV channels, Indian and otherwise, gave us all pause. Her act won genuine respect and deep admiration from many.

As Christians around the world celebrate Easter, homilies will be given on peace. Christ’s forgiveness of the Roman soldiers who carried out his crucifixion, will be remembered: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” What is perhaps not that well remembered is that about 60 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, the Apostle John (one of Christ’s disciples who was originally a fisherman and who died of old age and not martyrdom like his contemporaries) said:

If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John Chapter 4, verse 20)
A simple, yet profound check and balance for those who are driven by religious fervor and ‘love for God’, so-called.

It is heartening to see while there are those in India like Dara Singh, Babu Bajrangi and Shambulal Regar (not to mention the state machinery which not-so-tacitly and sometimes even tacitly encourages the spilling of blood), there are also those like Gladys Staines, Yashpal Saxena and Imam Rashidi who have transcended their anger and chosen to be peacemakers. For the latter, we are forever grateful, for they show ordinary folks like the rest of us that in the face of the most blatant provocation to stoke hate and retaliate, we always have a choice.
Rohit Kumar is an educator

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