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St Johns Southgate

14 May 2015

On September 21, 2001, 27-year-old Rais Bhuiyan was working behind the counter of a petrol station somewhere in America.

He was standing at the cash register when a man wearing a bandana, sunglasses and a baseball cap walked in.

Rais soon noticed that he was carrying a gun and was sure that the petrol station was about to be robbed.

But the man didn’t go for the cash register. Instead, he asked Rais a question. “Where are you from?” “Excuse me?” Rais replied.

He then felt a sensation like a million bees stinging him in the face as he heard a loud noise. Rais had been shot in the face.

He survived, but only just and he permanently lost the vision in his right eye.

The gunman’s name was Mark Stroman, a 31-year-old American who, in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, had taken it upon himself to seek revenge.

He sought out people who looked like the perpetrators pictured on the 24/7 news channels and gunned them down.

Stroman was convicted of his crimes and sentenced to death. But after his recovery, Rais Bhuiyan called for the state to have compassion on Stroman and spare his life.

Despite Rais’ act of mercy and forgiveness, Mark Stroman was put to death on Wednesday, July 20, 2011.

Stories like this tend to fascinate us because people like Rais are the exception rather than the rule.

Anyone who has been seriously wounded by another person – physically, emotionally or spiritually – knows that forgiveness can be incredibly hard to give. But responding to wrongdoing with justice and mercy need not be mutually exclusive.

Mahatma Gandhi is said to have made the point that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind. Keeping our eyes and keeping them open and focused on merciful justice and even forgiveness and reconciliation can put us on a path of growth as a people.

If the whole world goes blind we will find ourselves living through a dark age in more ways than one. But if we look through the eyes of Jesus Christ we can see a new vision.

We can have our hearts and minds renewed to be people of forgiveness and mercy while still seeking restorative justice. This is the way of Jesus.

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