Today, though, I think of the Amish in a different light. I think of the tremendous pain there is in the community that suffered the deaths of five schoolchildren at the hands of a madman. The thought of those small schoolgirls in their old fashioned long dresses and white bonnets lined up around the schoolroom, terrified by the gunman, is heartbreaking. Imagining their thoughts as they saw the gunman shoot the others and then turn the gun on them is too painful.
But I am struck by an Associated Press article I read about the Amish community's reaction to the slayings. At a time when many would be furious at the gunman and his family, the Amish are urging forgiveness. In fact, they are reaching out to the family of the murderer. One Amish neighbor comforted the gunman's family just hours after the shooting.
What a tremendous example they are for the world. Can you imagine a Palestinian offering forgiveness to a Jew after an Israeli army attack killed a Palestinian child? Or a Jew offering forgiveness to a Palestinian after the Palestinian's family member killed several Israelis in a suicide bombing? Or a Shiite forgiving a Sunni? A Hutu forgiving a Tutsi? A Northern Ireland Catholic forgiving a Protestant? Can you imagine how improved the situation in world hotspots like the Middle East would be if instead of a constant cycle of retribution, someone just offered forgiveness for a change?
I have never meant for this blog to be about religion, but I don't think forgiveness like this has to necessarily be a religious thing. It can simply be a progressive way to help to end conflicts. I'm not so naive to think that everyone will buy into it or that it will solve all the world's problems, but even if we can get people to try it a little bit it would be a good thing.
We sometimes think of the Amish as being backwards and old fashioned. We might laugh at them for not using electricity or automobiles; but in this aspect they are way ahead of the rest of the world.