Wednesday, April 19, 2006
FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION
Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, Inc.
"Reconciliation means accepting you can't undo the murder but you can decide how you want to live afterwards."
This is an organization that is near and dear to my heart. I love the idea behind reconciliation. It is a wonderful combination of forgiveness and letting go of the anger and moving on. I respect the activism and the mission behind this organization. Plain and simple it is to abolish the death penalty.
Each of their members has lost a loved one to murder, through homicide or execution, and every one in it opposes the death penalty. You may also join the organization as a "friend" (one who has not experienced the loss of a loved one through murder) but who supports MVFR's work to abolish the death penalty. Their members are people who have come to believe that their own grief will not be lessened by causing pain to others.
For more info on this wonderful organization please check out the link to their website.
I've heard a few people from this organization speak and it has always been a very moving experience. One was a woman whose father was a minister. When she was a teenager she and her father were in the parrish house when a person came in to rob them. The perpetrator ultimately killed her father and left her for dead. She eventually recovered from her injuries and her anger and pain over what had happened. She later testified in the trial of her attacker - for his defense. She was threatened by the prosecuting attorney and by the Judge about what she might testify to. But, she had a mission, and that was to let the jury know she had forgiven her father's attacker and did not want him to receive the death penalty. Another member had a daughter killed in the Oklahoma City bombing. He spoke on behalf of Timothy McVeigh all over the country and did not want him to receive the death penalty. What amazing people with tremendous capacities to forgive and to change their lives forever.
On that note, I was moved today by hearing the various victim's family members from 9/11 - The World Trade Center - testifying on behalf of Zacarious Moussaoui. "Testifying in Moussaoui's defense at his sentencing trial, the 9/11 witnesses spoke of coping and of honoring the memory of loved ones through scholarships and good deeds."
Phil Hirschkorn from CNN wrote:
"The witnesses, like others that came before them, were not permitted to offer opinions about whether or not Moussaoui should be executed. Not one even uttered the defendant's name in court.
Their sense of loss was just as great as that of prosecution witnesses, but their testimony struck a muted contrast to the heart-wrenching stories of those other 9/11 families. Anthony Aversano grew up estranged from his father, Lou, a Manhattan executive, after his parents' divorce. He reconciled with his father in a phone call on September 11, 1999.
"We had a lifetime of relationship in a couple of years," Aversano testified.
After the September 11 attacks, Aversano said he learned to overcome his negative feelings.
"How I fight the terror in me is to live my life well," he told the jury. "If I let myself succumb to the fear, that will lead to fear and anger and hatred," he said. "Not only were planes hijacked that day, but my life was gonna be added to the list of casualties."
Celebrating a life
Donald Bane, an Episcopal priest, lost his son, Michael, 33, who was working for insurer Marsh and McLennan, on the north tower's 100th floor, when the first plane struck on 9/11. Bane said it took him a while to sort out his feelings of rage and revenge. He has initiated dialogues between Christian and Muslim groups and plans to name a colt after his son. The family has also endowed a scholarship, Keep The Music Going, at Michael's alma mater, SUNY-Stoneybrook.
"Every day we miss him," he said. "To do things that promote a celebration of life, whether a colt, or Keep The Music Going, or people talking to each other and trying to solve their problems without killing each other, that's what I think our lives ought to be about," Bane said.
Marilynn Rosenthal lost her son, Josh, 44, a financial analyst for Fiduciary Trust, in the Trade Center's south tower. She said her family also refuses to succumb to the pain.
"We're not going to get caught up in a whirlpool of frustration and sadness and anger," she said.
Rosenthal, an adjunct professor at the University of Michigan's medical school, told jurors her family has endowed a public policy lecture series named after her son at the school. She also is writing a book about coming to terms with the attacks. "We feel something good has to come out of it," Rosenthal said.
Officer's last day
Patricia Perry's son, John, 38, was a police officer who was quitting the force on the morning of September 11, 2001. A cop who was a proud member of the American Civil Liberties Union, he wanted to put his law degree to work.
Perry had had the acting bug and was often an extra in uniform on the soap opera "One Live To Live." He was literally handing in his badge at NYPD headquarters in Lower Manhattan when the twin towers were hit.
"He said, give me back my badge, I'll return, and we'll finish this," his mother testified.
Perry was among the 23 NYPD officers killed trying to rescue others. NYU Law School now gives an award in his name to the student who shows the most dedication to civil liberties.
Robin Theurkauf, whose husband, Thomas, 44, was a financial analyst for Keefe, Bruette and Woods in the Trade Center, said she and her three sons were heartbroken at his death.
"It's a hard thing to come to accept and to come to manage," she said. "We did as many fun things that we could to keep ourselves together." His boys were 9, 11 and 12 when he died. "I am glad they were old enough to remember their father," she said.
More families to testify
Orlando Rodriguez's son, Greg, 31, was among the 658 employees killed working for Cantor Fitzgerald brokerage firm on five floors atop the Trade Center's north tower.
"He was a person who could talk to anybody under any circumstances," Rogriguez said. "He had a talent for looking at people as human beings regardless of their faults."
More September 11 families are expected to appear on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, jurors heard from mental health and cult experts.
Moussaoui is the only person tried in this country in connection with the September 11 attacks. The 37-year-old French citizen pleaded guilty to terrorism conspiracy a year ago.
Jurors, who already have held Moussaoui responsible for at least some of the nearly 3,000 deaths on 9/11, will decide whether he should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison.
Some 9/11 families have said publicly that they don't want Moussaoui to receive the death penalty because it would make him a martyr."
We should take the concept of forgiveness and reconciliation and apply it to our state justice system here in Missouri. A program where "offenders" (that is what they call people in the Department of Corrections) meet the victims of their crimes. Everyone has to be ready and willing to participate. All parties must submit to some counseling first and everyone has to be stable and have the right mind set before the first meeting. But, what a wonderful concept and I strongly believe the result would be a much lower recidivism rate for these "offenders". Now that would really be something......