Saturday, December 22, 2007

Amish Amazing Grace

When I was at the Men's Gathering in November one of the blokes there told us a story about an incident in America involving a horrendous crime committed against the Amish people, and their amazing response to it.
He asked us to help publicise their cause as there are moves to nominate them for the Nobel Peace Prize.
This is an email he sent containing more of the story. There is a YouTube video about it as well.
I'm happy to lend the (limited) support Holt Press can offer to such a worthy cause.



In Sept 2006, a gunman entered a single teacher primary school in the small Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, USA, ordered the boys and teacher to leave the building, then assaulted the girls and threatened to kill them. One of the older girls bravely said “let the little ones go and shoot me”. Ultimately, he shot most of them, killing five. The police broke in, and the gunman killed himself.

The community was devastated. The world was shown TV images of covered small bodies being carried out of the simple school house in a community whose people wore ‘old world clothes’ and traveled by horse and carriage. We felt sorrow for the mourning community, and anger towards the killer.

The Amish community then did something which was remarkable. They made a pronouncement: “We are in great pain over the loss of our daughters. However, we forgive the killer, and we will help his widow and their children”. Members of the Amish respectfully attended his funeral. They visited the widow and set up a fund to financially her.


I was amazed to read of their act of forgiveness under such profound provocation.

I reflected on the significance of their extreme willingness to forgive people who do them harm. As a small Christian community formed hundreds of years ago in Germany, they endured many persecutions, mostly from other Christian churches. One of their basic tenets is “to follow Christ’s commandment to forgive those who cause you harm”, and over the decades they have put this into practice. I realized that they were offering the world an example of love instead of the paradigm of revenge Ultimately, if we want peace (in a world with increasing access to nuclear weapons), then we need to open up the possibility of embracing innovative ways of handling conflict. The Amish provided a powerful example of responding to appalling aggression in a new way.

After 9/11, if the American President had said the Moslem world: “ You are trying to tell America something…lets sit down and talk seriously about your grievances", then we may not be in the mess of Iraq.

The example of the Amish is similar to the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” in South Africa. It resonates with the teachings of the Dalai Lama

On the anniversary of the massacre, a book was published called “Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy”, detailing how the community handled their grief and commitment to forgive the killer.

Bill Moyers of PBS wrote a video essay on the same topic (go to ‘You Tube’ and type in ‘Amish Grace’). It is a very moving 3 minute video. I recommend you see it.

I think the Amish Community of Nickel Mines deserves the “Nobel Peace Prize”. I have asked Medical Association for Prevention of War ( a previous recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize) to nominate the Amish. Hopefully, they will do so. The prize ceremony will be in November 2008.


John Stace


thebearlady said...

Having stayed with and been friends with one special lady for ten years now, I have such wonderful memories of these gentle people, I was apalled at this tradgedy, but not surprised at their reacton.
What can we do to help with the nomination?

Skip said...

Dear Marcus,

I am so proud of you for displaying this video on your blog. The Amish are what "Jesus" is all about. They do deserve the Nobel Peace Prize. I pray with all my heart that many more people could have that same heart of forgiveness as the Amish, and Jesus Christ, our only hope and salvation.

Your Best Friend,

Skip Joannes