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Sunday, 2 December 2007

Forgiveness and violence

The massacre of Amish children in the school house at Nickel Mines in October 2006 brought an unusual degree of media focus on this community that has its roots in the Anabaptist strand of the Reformation in the early 16th century.

The early gestures of forgiveness by the members of the community towards the family of the man who committed the murders aroused a response of incredulity from US media in particular.

A year later we have the results of an investigation by sociologists that demonstrates how deeply rooted were the habits and practices of the Amish community that underpinned those gestures of forgiveness.

Following the 2 October 2006 shooting that killed five Amish girls and wounded five others in the USA, three investigators (Dr Donald B. Kraybill, Elizabethtown College, Pennsylvania, Dr Steven M. Nolt, Goshen College, Indiana, and Dr David Weaver-Zercher, Messiah College, Pennsylvania) explored why and how the Amish expressed forgiveness in the wake of the shooting. The research methods involved face-to-face interviews with Amish people to probe their practice of forgiveness. In addition the researchers pursued Amish writings on forgiveness as well as historical examples when Amish people forgave those who wronged them. The investigators also reviewed hundreds of media stories and editorials on Amish forgiveness at Nickel Mines. Finally, the investigation compared Amish practices of forgiveness with broader studies of forgiveness in American society. The research was conducted from 1 November 2006 through to 1 April 2007. The results are summarised below and have been released in the new book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy (Jossey-Bass, 2007)

A full report of the findins is available on the Ekkelsia Web site:

This witness to peacemaking stands as a challenge to the prevailing political cuture that focuses on "being tough" and a church culture that focuses on "feel good meeting of needs"

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