Monday, April 21, 2014

Retribution and Forgiveness

This picture provided by ISNA, a semi-official news agency, taken on Tuesday shows Maryam Hosseinzadeh, right, and her husband Abdolghani, left, removing the noose from the neck of blindfolded Bilal who was convicted of murdering their son Abdollah in the northern city of Nour, Iran. Bilal was pardoned by the victim's family moments before being executed.

This past Friday Christians around the world contemplated the execution of Jesus of Nazareth in first century Palestine, and explored what that event means for us in terms of God's forgiveness and reconciling love. Unfortunately Good Friday can become conventional, a worship service in which a relatively small percentage of members of a congregation participate.We can easily forget that this was the death penalty being carried out on an innocent man in a repressive and violent society.

Did you see the story at the end of last week about an Iranian man sentenced to death for the murder of another young man when both were age seventeen? He was blindfolded and on the gallows with a noose around his neck when the mother of his victim chose to pardon him.This option had always been available to her, and he would go to jail instead, but she wanted retribution.

She told Shargh newspaper that her son Abdollah appeared to her in a dream and asked her to forgive his killer, and still she was reluctant. She said that in her speech at the gallows, she scolded the crowd for pressuring her to forgive, saying: “Do you know what I have gone through all these years and how my life became like poison?” But after Bilal pleaded to her — and she slapped him — “I felt at ease” and forgave him, she said.

 The other photo shows the mother of the pardoned man embracing the mother of the victim. How is that for drama?

What does this story stir up for you? Is this true forgiveness? Is forgiveness always more complex than we would like to admit?

Kobra, left, whose son Bilal was convicted of murdering a man, embraces Samereh Alinejad, mother of the victim, after she pardoned the killer.

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