People of forgiveness (3)

Part one: people whose lives have been saved by forgiveness.   Part two: why they forgave.


Photo: public domain

BETSIE AND CORRIE TEN BOOM lived in Holland during the second World War (1939-1945). Holland is a region in the Netherlands and the Netherlands is next to Germany. 

     Betsie and Corrie never married. They lived with their father who was a clock maker. During the war the sisters and their father helped save the lives of 800 Jewish people. The Germans had laws that sent Jewish people to “concentration camps” [prisons] and there they died. And so the sisters and their father hid Jewish families in their house and took care of them until they were able to run away to another country.  For this, Betsie, Corrie and their father were sent to a German concentration camp. The camps were very small, but had lots of people. Almost all the people in these camps were killed or died of hunger and cold. 

     The sisters’ father died after only 10 days. Betsie died 10 months later.  Betsie was best known for her forgiveness and love. What helped her learn to not hate?  The answer may surprise you. Betsie and people like Betsie who refused [who did not agree] to hate said that they knew the guards were not free!  The guards lived in a worse “prison”: the prison of hatred, ignorance and fear. Because of this, Betsie felt sorry for them. All her life, Betsy was very ill.  And so, “things” in life were not important to her. Feelings were important to her: love, hope and forgiveness. Even war and the prison camp did not take love away from her. Before she died, she begged Corrie [she asked her with all her heart] to make these feelings her most important possessions.  [possession: something that is yours; something you own.]  Corrie said she would try.

     Soon after Betsie’s death, Corrie was freed [let go] from the prison. After that, she spent her life talking to people around the world about how she learned to forgive. It took her many years to learn not to hate.  This was her secret: She said, “You are not able to forgive—but God’s love in us is stronger than our hatred.”   Many years after she was freed, she met one of the guards from the camp. He was a guard who had done some of the most terrible things of all. The guard asked Corrie to forgive him. To look him in the eye, to shake his hand was almost impossible. She did not think she could do it. In the end, it was not something she did. The feeling of forgiveness, and the words, “I forgive you,” she said, were given to her by a love higher than her own. The man had to face and correct his own past.  But at that moment, she was saved from hatred, and so she could live better than before.   

     It seems hard to believe, but the father and the girls said they were not sad about helping the Jewish people. They would do it again, they said. 



Photo: public domain

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness [hurt at what others did to him] and hatred behind, I would still be in prison.”

NELSON MANDELA lived in South Africa during a time called apartheid. (1948-1994)  Most people know his story well. But think of yourself, for a moment, living in his country as a black person. How would you feel?  The government made black people live apart from white people in poor, small, dirty townships. Nelson Mandela spoke up against this terrible system that made black people feel as if they were not human. For wanting freedom for everyone, Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison. When he left prison he became the first black president of South Africa elected in a democratic election. He invited his prison guards to come and sit at the same table and celebrate with him the day he became president.  He did not remind them of the past. He asked them to now work together to build a better future.  One of his guards became his body guard and protected Mandela the rest of his life. The guard said that Mandela became like a father to him. 

     Nelson Mandela ended apartheid and gave peace and freedom to everyone in South Africa —not just to the blacks. When he left prison he said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness [hurt at what others did to him] and hatred behind, I would still be in prison.”   You can learn more about Nelson Mandela in this video HERE.  


Photo: Samputu Forgiveness Campaign

JEAN-PAUL SAMPUTU lives in Rwanda. He was a young man during a time when the government forced one group of people called Hutus to kill another group of people called Tutsis. (April - July 1994) Before this, these people were friends and neighbors. Jean Paul’s whole family was killed by one of his closest friends. He found how to forgive his friend. Later, he helped his friend forgive himself.  Now they work together to help others forgive. Jean Paul once said, “Let history inform you, not control you. We can’t change the past, but we can change our feelings about it and move forward.”  You can read more about him HERE.  


Wikipedia free us. Photo: A.K. Rockefeller

MALALA YOUSAFZAI was born in Pakistan. While she was living there a group of terrorists called the Taliban came to her country and made new laws. One law did not let girls go to school. (Starting about 2009.) When Malala was eleven, she wrote a blog that opposed the Taliban and spoke for the right of girls to go to school. On the way home from school one day, she was shot and almost killed. Today she works from her new home in England to defend the rights of girls and women. In October 2014, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.  In a speech she gave at the United Nations in 2013 she said, “I am not against anyone. . . . I am here to speak for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists. I do not even hate the Talib who shot me.’’  



Unless we have inside us that which is above us, we will soon become like that which is around us.”    


I.  The people written about here, looked to their religion to help them forgive. All of their religions are different from each other, but they all believed a power higher than their own power, helped them stop being afraid to forgive. The forgiving was not really about the people who hurt them. It was a way to stop feeling separated from love, peace and happiness. 

II.  They discovered [found out about] the myths of forgiveness. [myth: something that many people believe, but is not true.]  They learned that these are myths:   

1.) Forgiveness is weak. None of the people above were weak people. They were very strong people.   

2.) People who forgive are not respected. All of the people above are respected. They were able to change their lives, their communities and, in some cases, even make their countries better.   

3.) Forgiving means the other person does not have to change.  This too is a myth.    

4.) The person who did wrong must apologize [say they are sorry] for you to forgive.  Forgiveness does not depend on the other person at all. They do not even need to apologize—or to even be alive for you to forgive them.  

III.  The people written about here understood that the wrong done to them kept hurting them as long as they did not forgive. But it was also more than not wanting to feel hurt. All the people here wanted more good in the world—for everyone. They accepted the hard truth: the answer to hate is not more hate. The most beautiful things in the world do not make us completely happy if the feelings in the world make us sad. 

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