Forgiving the Mumbai terrorists

By Kia ScherrPresident, One Life Alliance One year ago, I was a wife, a mother and a meditation teacher, living … Continued

By Kia Scherr
President, One Life Alliance

One year ago, I was a wife, a mother and a meditation teacher, living at a spiritual sanctuary in rural Virginia with my husband Alan and daughter Naomi, who was 13 years old at the time. Naomi was reviewing math for her SAT exam, a requirement for applying to boarding school, and excited about fulfilling the remaining requirement – an essay on the trip to India she was about to take with her father.

Last November 26, 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, took the lives of 170 people. Among the innocent people who were shot and killed in this tragedy were Alan and Naomi.

In those first hazy, grief-filled days, I was in a state of shock. Yet as we sat and watched the news unfold, I found myself saying to my family that we must send the terrorists our love and forgiveness. It is what I sincerely felt at the time, and continue to feel. It was so obvious to me that the terrorists were extremely separated from the experience of love, that I instinctively felt compassion for them.

One thing that stood out most clearly right from the beginning was the outpouring of love that came in from people all over the world of all religions and cultures. Some were old friends, but most were people I had never met. I heard from Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. These messages of faith inspired me then, and continue to inspire the ongoing response to this tragedy.

From an Iranian family:

From a Muslim:

From Zimbabwe:

These heartfelt messages reveal the essence of being human – the ability to feel love and share love with others. It is the essence of being alive. Life itself is our commonality and in this, despite the differences in how we experience life, we are one human race.

In any moment, we can choose love, understanding, acceptance, compassion and forgiveness. Feeling compassion and forgiveness has allowed me to be at peace within myself, and therefore, I can contribute peace to all of those in my world.

When life is lost so tragically, we value life all the more. Many lives were lost, but we’re still here. My husband and daughter are gone, and I felt I died while I was alive. And yet, I am still alive, so now what? What can I offer? Is there a contribution I can make? What’s left? Who do I choose to be? I feel connected to my human family as never before.

Before the Mumbai attacks, I lived the quiet, solitary life of a meditator for 11 years. Now, my days are full. I am the president of a new nonprofit organization, One Life Alliance, dedicated to honoring the sacredness of life through compassion and forgiveness. I have begun traveling and have met many people who are in full support of the message, and indeed, are living that message and transforming themselves and their world in the process.

As I wonder if I am qualified to offer anything, the words to one of Leonard Cohen’s songs come to mind: “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

My offering is an invitation to engage in the conversation about the sacredness and oneness of life – to honor the sacredness of life, first in ourselves and then in each other. Whatever our faith, there is an underlying connection that we all share, and that is life itself. Together, perhaps, we can evolve our value for the life we all share.

Kia Scherr is president of One Life Alliance, an organization created to inspire the conversation about the sacredness of all life. She has been a meditation teacher for more than thirty years and previously served as national executive council member for the Synchronicity Foundation, directing hundreds of people through intensive retreat protocols as retreat coordinator, presenter and mentor.

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  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Interesting. NOw, what do you make of this? A Muslim blogger thinks the widespread victimization against EUROPEAN Jews is justified by certain Israeli policies. Now, you might ask what one thing has to do with another, but, then, you are not a racist.

  • yasseryousufi

    Ms Sherr,This is a wonderful post! If everyone of us could somehow overcome those emotions of vengence that spiral into a vicious cycle of counter revenges, this world could become a lovely place. Its sad that people would attempt to promote hatred and totally ignore the spirit that this article aims to portray. Well I think we can just ignore these racists. They intentionally throw these racist slurs to get noticed. Let them be consumed by their own hatred~!

  • halozcel1

    Dad and his daughter were sitting at Hotel…Little Ishmeal and his little girl freind were walking….Murderers will be strangled in Ishmeal’s blood and then her black eyes will laugh…

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    Interesting. NOw, what do you make of this? A Muslim blogger thinks the widespread victimization against EUROPEAN Jews is justified by certain Israeli policies. Now, you might ask what one thing has to do with another, but, then, you are not a racist.

  • AynRand7

    If they’re not sorry they are not to be forgiven but pursued like the pig eaters they are and killed. Let’s call a spade a spade: These are muslim extremists bent on eradicating Jews and Chriatians. And the muslims who do not speak out against radical islam are cowards, too. Have a nice day.

  • jaggu

    Forgive and forget has been ongoing for the last 60 years – and hence Pakistan is rising way up in the halls of shame.Even if an exceptional person like Kia can forget or forgive magnamously, for the poor families of India who lost their sole bread earner or son in an attack at a public place – the life ahead is very very grim, so the method to stop the attacks must be found proactively by any one calling himself a leader. Failing this the civilization as we know it will crumble under the cumulative stress.

  • ChrisFord1

    While Mrs Sherr may be praised by some as an exceptional, noble person who “rises above untidy deaths to bestow forgiveness” – another way of looking at it is that there is a species of woman out there compelled to defend and forgive the husband that beats her to a pulp, her rapist, and so on.In France, that sort of woman usually had her head shaved at the end of WWII.Now we are told we must admire such women who emotionally driven into a victimization-forgiveness-collaboration cycle.Say what you want about men, but I’ve never heard of one who is discovered and then is extolled in the media for “rising above hatred” and giving his wife’s slayer and his daughter’s rapist-killer “warm and meaningful hugs” in the prison receiving area. No effort to “understand it from the thug’s perspective”.

  • maheshB

    May the survivors of those who perished on 26/11 be blessed with strength to cope with their losses as the entire world too shares their grief.On the other hand this constant bickering and defense of one religion or another will not solve anything — it will not bring love or peace – it will only bolster the already inflated egos and angers.It is of paramount importance that first we develop courage to see things as they are. And then we help our Muslim brothers and sisters to see the reality until they too feel the sufferings of the survivors of violence committed at behest Islam, no matter by how few. At the same time other religions and ideologies that too are exploiting the innocents to commit crimes need open their hearts and accept their responsibilitiesWe need to encourage the peace and love seeking Muslims to speak out against the hell unleashed in the good name of Islam. Truly, it is an opportunity for Islam to rise to the levels it claims to have.Note that it only takes a few drops of poison to wipe out the good. And then it takes monumental efforts of the good to mend the mess created by the poison. There is much too much poison in our otherwise very beautiful world. We should be thankful for our accomplishments for the happiness and goodness of all.

  • RJFried

    Man up. Never forgive and never forget.

  • qprmeteor

    Disgraceful comments on here. Does the WaPo even bother moderating its comment forums – it seems to be a breeding ground of extremism. Didn’t think this was the Washington Times. Or the Völkischer Beobachter.

  • DwightCollins

    Forgiveness is fine but they still have to pay for their acts of terrorism…

  • DwightCollins

    GOD can even forgive you and send you to Hell…

  • AynRand7

    No one is forgiven UNTIL they are sorry. This is from the Bible. IF (IF( they are sorry from the heart then we must forgive them. Still, there is tremendous cowardice from the silence in the muslim community by not more emphatic demands and actions against terrorists. Who sees muslims speaking out against terror on FOX News, etc.? What ACTIONS are taking place against terror by muslims. Pathetic little. You know why civilized nations do not trust muslims? You do not deserve trust. You have not earned trust because your hearts are not truly against terrorists.

  • arun1patel

    I think forgiving is a way for Ms Scherr to cope with the evil murder of a sweet girl and a loving husband.But for me, it is the wrong sentiment. Religious hate encouraged by Pakistani citizens continues without remorse, and then they attempt to rationalize and justify the hate. These weren’t just 10 people acting alone, they were acting out the sentiments of millions of Pakistanis, including many in the Pakistani Army and Government who allow mastermind hate monger Hafeez Saeed to practice his creed of hate unhindered. Their Govt plays politics with a tragedy like this – notice how just in time for the anniversary they charged 7 with aiding and abetting. You will see them go free soon for lack of evidence.These are the people to whom John Kerry and Richard Lugar lobbied to give $7.5 billion, and then apologized to Pakistan for attempting to put conditions on the aid.The United States declares Iran a state sponsor of terror, but cannot do the same for Pakistan. When was the last time you saw Iranians commit this kind of atrocity? Do you see any hue and cry from Pakistani citizens because the sponsors of these killers are free? It is time Muslims understand that Pakistanis give Islam a bad name.

  • yasseryousufi

    ArunPatel and AynRand,Its easy to imagine that emotions would be running high on the first anniversary of those terrible attacks in Mumbai. But I find that you are deliberately using this tragedy to malign Pakistan and muslims which I am afraid is a favorite pastime of most American Hindus on these blogs. I would like to ask you if you ever had the same feelings when the anniversary of the Gujrat Massacare came and went? Do you ever think about those thousands of women raped by Hindu fundamentalists on the orders of their extremist Hindu Leader Narendar Modi. More than 2000 muslims were butchered in a massacre that went on for days without anyone interefering, by your fellow Hindus. Most of these people were burned in public with the Police watching and doing nothing to protect these muslims. There’s a video on youtube where a Hindu Extremist leader proudly detailed how he ripped open the belly of a pregnant muslim woman took out the baby inside it and raised it on the sword. People just need to type Gujarat Massacre and see it for thmeselves. Was any of those perpetrators ever caught? Instead you elected Narendar Modi by a landslide in your next elections. whys that? How is he different from Hafiz Saeed? The fact is you yourself do not have the wherewithal to take on your extremists. You are more afraid of your extremists then we are. Atleast we never elect them as Chief Ministers or Prime Ministers. Its pretty pathetic for a few bloggers like you to display your small mindedness on an attack that every Pakistani whole heartedly condemns. We ourselves are the biggest victims of these terrorists. And we are actually fighting a war against them losing more of our brave soldiers than we ever lost in any of our wars with India. So please growup and start channeling your energies to stop hatred from spreading rather being a tool for it.

  • Farnaz1Mansouri1

    In Judaism, neither the deity nor human can forgive someone for something s/he has done to another. So, although Ms. Scherr may forgive the terrorists for the grief they caused her in their slaughter of her husband and daughter, only they can forgive the terrorists for what they did to them.Murder is exceptional.I think of all the innocent dead. I think of the special instructions the Islamist murderers had to torture to death twenty-nine-year-old Gavriel HOltzberg and his beautiful, adored Rivke, twenty-eight and FIVE MONTHS pregnant. I think of their baby boy who watched the slaughter of his parents and their visitors. I think of him brought out of that hell hole covered in his mother’s blood, carried out by his heroic nanny, who is a hero in our community.Not to her though. She says, “I could not save my rabbi.”The Holtzbergs were a beloved presence in Mumbai. Hindu newspapers on the web mention them, I suppose because they were targeted for the horrible death they suffered, because they were butchered so unimaginably, because their young son was forced to witness this.I wish for peace for all those who lost people precious to them in that wholesale slaughter.I wonder, if Pakistan had surrendered Dawood Ibrahim to India, would this have happened? Musharraf agreed to it, and the US promised. It’s interesting to read the Indian diplomat’s notes on what followed. Politely, he stated as best he could, that he had entered a twilight zone of evasion. And so Mr. Ibrahim lives on.While so many of all faiths do not.Bless the people of Mumbai for their courage and strength. May all good things be with you.

  • GeneGarman

    On Friday, December 4, Asma Uddin, attorney for the Becket Fund, typically misrepresented the constitutional principle of “separation between Religion and Government,” James Madison, W&MQ 3:555. In the USA, religion actions are not above the laws of the land; that is, the free exercise clause is not a license for anarchy, as the Supreme Court confirmed long ago, in Reynolds v. U.S.In my recent book The Religion Commandments in the Constitution, I thoroughly rebut the position of the Becket Fund and the “Religious Right” and expound upon the distinction between “prohibiting” and “abridging,” as deliberately made in the First Amendment regarding the exercise of religion.The foundation of our national principles are specifically worded in the Constitution and written by men who understood the words they wrote: No “religious” test shall ever be required, no law shall be made even respecting an establishment of “religion,” and the voluntary exercise of “religion” shall not be prohibited, which means totally forbidden, in distinction from the meaning of “abridging,” that is, reducing, which applies to speech, press, peaceable assembly, and petition.It is the words of the Constitution which are the supreme law of the land and have legal standing in court, not the words of Islam, Christianity, or the Becket Fund.