I will never forget that tragic day in Durban, South Africa. I was 13 years old and played in the front yard on a beautiful sunny day of bliss catching with my brothers, sisters and friends when my mom called the family inside. Tears ran down her face as she held a newspaper article telling of my father's tragic death in East Africa.
The circumstances of his death were fraught with some question marks. Nevertheless, everything seemed to indicate that he was a victim of the Mao Mao war, which took place from 1952 to 1960 and was directed against the colonial rule of Kenya. The most active group in the conflict was the Kikuyu, the largest ethnic group in Kenya. Although the clashes were directed primarily against the British colonial power and white settlers, there were also violent riots between the Mao Mao and the loyal Africans. My dad was a major in a Kenyan regiment at the time and played an important role in the war and was therefore on the kill list. I was emotionally desperate, confused and very upset as a young teenager. The only thing I knew was the loss of my beloved father. This was shortly after the end of the war. He had planned to move to South Africa in a few months. At that time, I had not understood the exact reason for the war and only knew that my father was fighting a terrorist organization. She was the enemy through whom many of our friends had lost their lives!
Not only did we have to cope with the traumatic loss, but we also faced the fact that we could face a life of great poverty because the state authorities refused to pay us the value of our property in East Africa. My mother then faced the challenge of finding a job and educating five school-age children and providing them with a meager salary. Nevertheless, in the years that followed, I remained faithful to my Christian belief and did not stir up anger or hatred for the people responsible for the terrible death of my father.
No other way
The words that Jesus spoke when he was hanging on the cross, looking at those who denounced, ridiculed, flogged, nailed to the cross and watched him die under agony, comforted me in my pain: "Father, forgive you because they don't know what they're doing. »
The crucifixion of Jesus was instigated by the self-righteous religious leaders of the day, the scribes and Pharisees, who were enveloped in their own world of politics, authority, and complacency. They grew up in this world and they were deeply rooted in their own psyche and the cultural traditions of their time. The message that Jesus proclaimed was a serious threat to the survival of this world. Therefore, they forged a plan to bring him to justice and crucify him. It was completely wrong to act that way, but they saw no other way.
The Roman soldiers were part of another world, part of an imperialist rule. They simply obeyed the orders of their superiors just as any other loyal soldier would have done. They saw no other way.
I, too, had to face the truth: the Mao Mao rebels were trapped in a vicious war that was about survival. Her own freedom was impaired. They grew up believing in their cause and chose the path of violence to secure their freedom. They saw no other way. Many years later, 1997, I was invited to be a guest speaker at a gathering near Kibirichia in the eastern Meruregion of Kenya. It was an exciting way to explore my roots and show my wife and children the awe-inspiring nature of Kenya and they were very pleased.
In my opening speech, I spoke of the childhood that I enjoyed in this beautiful country, but did not talk about the downsides of the war and the death of my father. Shortly after my performance, a gray-haired elderly gentleman came to me on a crutch walking and with a big laugh on his face. Surrounded by an enthusiastic group of about eight grandchildren, he asked me to sit down because he wanted to tell me something.
There was a touching moment of an unexpected surprise. He spoke openly about the war and how he was in a terrible battle as a member of the Kikuju. I heard from the other side of the conflict. He said that he was part of a movement that wanted to live freely and work in the lands that were taken from them. Sadly, he lost and many thousands of other loved ones, including women and children. This warm-hearted Christian gentleman then looked at me with eyes filled with love and said, "I am very sorry for the loss of your father." It was difficult for me to suppress the tears. Here we were and chatted as Christians a few decades later after being on opposing sides in one of Kenya's most gruesome wars, even though I was only a naive child during the conflict.
We were immediately connected in a deep friendship. Even though I have never been bitter to the people who were responsible for my father's death, I felt a deep reconciliation with history. Philippians 4,7 came to my mind: "And the peace of God, which is higher than all reason, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." The love, peace and grace of God united us in oneness in his presence. Our roots in Christ brought healing to us, breaking the cycle of pain in which we had spent our lives. An indescribable feeling of relief and liberation filled us. The way in which God brought us together reflects the futility of war, conflict and subtlety. In most cases, neither side had really won. It breaks your heart to see how Christians fight against Christians in the name of their cause. In times of war both sides pray to God and ask him to stand on their side and in times of peace the same Christians are most likely friends.
Learning to let go
This life-changing encounter helped me better understand the Bible verses that speak of love for the enemy (Luke 6,27: 36). Apart from a war situation, it also requires asking who our enemy and enemy are? What about the people we meet every day? Do we stir up hatred and dislike for others? Perhaps against the superior with whom we cannot cope? Maybe against the trusted friend who hurt us deeply? Maybe against the neighbor we are arguing with?
The text from Luke does not prohibit wrong behavior. Rather, it is about keeping an eye on the big picture by exercising forgiveness, grace, goodness and reconciliation and becoming the person to whom Christ calls us. It is about learning to love as God loves by maturing and growing as Christians. Bitterness and rejection can easily capture us and control us. Learning to let go by putting the circumstances that we cannot control and influence in the hands of God make the real difference. In John 8,31: 32, Jesus encourages us to listen to his words and act accordingly: "If you will stick to my word, you will truly be my disciples and you will recognize the truth, and the truth will set you free. ” That is the key to freedom in his love.
by Robert Klynsmith