By Mary Jaksch
Are there things you find too hard to forgive? The following story of Peter and Linda Biehl is a wonderful example of what compassion and forgiveness can achieve.
In 1993 their daughter, Amy Biehl, an 26-year-old Fulbright Scholar, went to South Africa to work in underprivileged communities. Shortly before the end of the apartheid era, Amy Biehl was stoned and knifed to death by a crowd of young blacks.
As you can imagine, Linda and Peter were devastated. After a while they decided to visit South Africa to understand what Amy’s life had been like. They visited Guguletu, the back township where Amy’s killers grew up. As they drove slowly along the potholed streets and saw the hostile glances, they locked their car doors and hunched down in their seats. Afterwards, during an interview with CBS Linda said, “I can understand how, if you were a youth living in these condition, you could be stirred up, and you could become violent.”
Peter and Linda then decided to establish the Amy Biehl Foundation that offers after-school and vocational training to young people of Guguletu and other black townships.
Meanwhile, the four young men who killed Amy were pardoned and released from prison in 1998 after serving four years. Soon after that, two of them, Easy Nofomela and Ntebecko Penny, made contact with Amy’s parents. You can imagine how hard it was for Linda and Peter to meet face to face with the killers of their daughter. But when they saw how bleak their prospects were, they decided to offer help and support to Easy and Ntebecko. They started training as builders in one of the Biehls’ programmes and have since been involved with a construction company that the Biehls started.
It’s terrific to be able to do that,” Peter Biehl said. “It just absolutely sets me free.
This story shows how powerful and healing the journey of compassion can be. Whenever I balk at forgiving someone, I remind myself of the Biehls and their journey of healing. Then I open to compassion and take the first step of forgiveness – which is stepping in the shoes of those who have hurt me.
Please forgive someone today and feel the freedom of compassion.