The face of forgiveness in Uganda

Many thanks to Terry Mattingly at Get Religion for pointing out this incredible story of forgiveness in the face of overwhelming suffering and evil. A BBC Today segment introduces readers to Lawill Concy, a 42-year-old Ugandan woman who was mutilated at the hands of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), “the most feared militia in Africa”:

“One of the commanders asked a young boy at the back of the room to come over,” she remembers. “They told him to show us how sharp the machete was and what damage it could do. The commander then looked at all of us and said: ‘Don’t cry or scream when the knife comes or you’ll be killed straight away.'” . . .

“The boy then reached forward and cut off my friend’s lips followed by her ears. Then he pushed the blade into her mouth and told her to bite on it. She did this. All the time she hardly made a sound. Then they motioned for me to come over to the boy… and he did the same to me.”

The stories of the young boys forced to commit such atrocities are just as heartbreaking: One man recalls how, at the age of 12, his father was shot in front of him, and later how he was forced to beat to death his childhood friend, who had attempted to escape — memories that still haunt him now as a grown man:

 

“At first when I first came back home it was really, really difficult. Sometimes I had nightmares, people pleading for their lives to me,” he explains.

“One thing I’ve been doing is to pray. I’ve been used by other people just like a stick for beating a snake. So after the snake is dead they throw the stick away. I only pray that God forgive me for that. I still feel for them…I feel it really… if I am to kill them… I feel it so much.”

It’s almost impossible to imagine getting beyond abuse like this; the psychological scars could easily be more devastating than the physical ones. And yet Concy, at least, has learned to let go:

With Richard Ocitti so desperate to be forgiven for the brutal acts he was made to commit as a child, how would Lawill react, I asked, if she ever saw the boy who scarred her for life on that terrible day?

“Now I’m ready to forgive him and the others. But if I’d come across any of them before, I’d have killed them for what they did to me. But now I have put myself in the hands of God.

“The Bible says we should forgive one another. So, I’m ready to forgive them all.”

The piece includes recorded interviews with Concy and Ocitti; do listen to them both.

Margaret Cabaniss

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Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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