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How to Forgive a Murderer

Anyone living in Sweden has not been able to go untouched by Engla and her tragic story. She is the ten-year-old girl who was recently abducted and killed by a middle aged man in central Sweden. In a newspaper yesterday I read something that moved me to tears. It was an open letter from Engla’s family. Here’s a copy of it:

“Vi vill tacka för den enorma uppslutningen stöd och engagemang från alla som varit vid vår sida under sökande och i vår sorg, som blivit allas våran sorg. Engla var en tjej som spred ljus och glädje. Engla har alltid vetat att hon skulle bli något speciellt, nu vet vi att hon blev en ljusbärare som förenar våra hjärtan över hela världen. Vi känner tillsammans och påverkas av varandra. Vi förstår att vi är ett. Snälla ta hand om varandra och var varlig mot vår jord. Vi får frågor om vad vi känner för 42-åringen – Folk kan bara gå till sig själva och känna, så förstår de vad vi känner. Att han har erkänt gör att vi kan släppa oron för att Engla fortfarande far illa någonstans. Vårt liv kommer aldrig att bli sig likt men vi kommer att kämpa för att hitta en vardag för oss och våra barn, där vi vill hitta ett sätt att bära Englas ljus vidare till något stort och positivt för alla. Frid och kärlek Carina, Torbjörn, barnen”

This 42-year-old murderer is the most despised person in Sweden at the moment. Anyone who’s had the chance to say anything about him has used words of hatred and disgust. Now Engla’s family had the opportunity to speak, and if any had the right to feel hatred it would be this family, of course. But in their words to us, they choose another path, regardless of the crushing heartache they must be experiencing, caused by this man; they choose the path of “peace and love”.

Although they do not explicitly say they forgive their daughter’s killer, they want to tell us that light and love is a better way than ill-feeling and hatred. They don’t place much focus on the murderer, but rather what we all – and not just their family – can bring with us into the future that will help make this world a better place.

There has been a kind of an Engla fever in the media. Everyone is writing and talking about it, ever since she disappeared; the business of finding Engla – and now grieving for her – has become everyone’s business. The whole nation is united in heart and purpose in way that is quite unusual to see. I feel it almost dreadful to say, but her death has brought so many others to life. And this is actually what I think is the core message from her family. I quote in part:

“Engla always knew that she was going to be something special, and now we know that she became a light-bearer that united our hearts all over the world… We understand that we are one…. Our life will never be the same but we will strive to return to everyday life… where we will find a way to carry the light of Engla onward to something great and positive for us all.”

I think this viewpoint is commendable beyond words. What a great example for us all, turning this tragedy into something hopeful for our society. I can only hope that I would have the same strength in that situation; for many of us it would be hard. But wherever we are in life, we could learn from this family, that hate and revenge is not the answer; that it will in truth only hurt us more than whichever offender we direct our anger at. Rather, we could push forward in a positive spirit, putting away the gloom of hate, and like Engla’s family carry a warm light with us instead.

I wish God’s choicest blessings for the Engla, now in her heaven, and for her sweet family.

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