Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “How many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” – Matthew 18:21-23
Does this apply to even the most heinous crimes? What if you were at work on ordinary day and a man walked in and shot you in the face, leaving you severely injured and blind in one eye? What would you want to see happen to that me?
I shudder to think of how I would answer this question. I have a hard enough time forgiving those who have hurt me in much lesser ways. When we are hurt, revenge is often the first thing that comes to mind. Revenge is not what Rais Bhuiyan is looking for.
A few weeks after September 11th, Bhuiyan, a devout Muslim, went through the scenario mentioned above. His attacker, a white supremacist by the name of Mark Stroman, who confessed to attacking two other convenience store workers besides Bhuiyan, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 6pm this evening. But there is one person who wants to see Stroman’s life be spared and that is Bhuiyan, the man he shot and left for dead nearly ten years ago. Bhuiyan is suing the state of Texas for the right to meet with Stroman face-to-face for a victim-offender reconciliation process.
What motivates Bhuiyan to act with such love and forgiveness toward the man that hurt him? He says it is his strong Muslim faith and the teaching of the Koran. The Koran teaches that in forgiving those who wrong you, one becomes closer to God.
Since 9/11, Islam has often been condemned as a “violent religion,” that breeds terrorism. The sight of a burqa or a mosque makes many Americans anxious and easy. Islam is not accepted in our society, as Christianity and Judaism are. Yet, Rais Bhuiyan’s actions teach us how to be better Christians. Bhuiyan is a living example of Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 18:21-23. So, perhaps before we protest the building of a mosque near Ground Zero, we should be open to listening to what Islam can teach us. God’s love can be found in many places- the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Koran. There are many pathways to our loving, transcendent, and infinite God.