Ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to share my personal journey with the idea and practice of forgiveness.
On September 23, 1992, when I was still in school, my father Chalie Kevichusa was shot and killed not far from here. My younger sister was with him that day and was also injured. At the funeral, my father’s elder brother Khrielie Kevichusa said: “We as a family forgive those who have done this.”
On June 4, 1996, less than four years since my father’s killing, my uncle Tubu Kevichusa was also shot dead. This time in his home, in the middle of the night, in front of his young daughter, young son, and wife who was pregnant with their third child. At his funeral, my uncle Khrielie again got up and said we forgive those who have done this.
These two killings have traumatised, influenced, and changed our lives as a family and as individuals.
Since the time my father was killed I have lived with the belief that I have forgiven those responsible, that I must forgive, that forgiveness is the right thing to do. Forgiveness does not mean I don’t feel the pain anymore; it does not mean I have a memory lapse and forget what was done to my father and uncle. For me, to forgive means while I embrace the pain, and even the anger, I also refuse to partner with hate, the longing for vengeance, or the desire to see the perpetrators suffer. Forgiveness looks like never bringing up the same issue in the future to accuse or demand revenge.
When I was approached to speak today, I had to ask myself again: “Why do I forgive?”
First, I have learned that to live with unforgiveness is to choose to live in a prison even though I have the key to my freedom. Living with unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping my enemy will die.
Second, I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that following Jesus means following his way – and the way of Jesus is always the way of forgiveness. If I refuse to forgive, I personally cannot claim to be a follower of the One who, with his dying breath, prayed for the forgiveness of those who nailed him to a cross.
Third, I forgive because I believe without forgiveness we cannot move forward. We cannot keep holding on to the past if we expect to take hold of the future. We can and must remember the past, but we cannot and must not remain there. If our memories of the past are greater than our dreams for the future, we are already dying.
I pray God’s wisdom upon us as we navigate our way through our politics and our perspectives, our prejudices and our personal pain, to arrive at a place where we can move forward as forgiven and forgiving people. Amen.
The ‘Story of Forgiveness’ shared during the Worship of Celebration and Commitment held to commemorate the 9th year of signing of the ‘Covenant of Reconciliation’ on June 13, 2018 organized by the Forum for Naga Reconciliation at Dimapur Ao Baptist Church, Duncan Basti, Dimapur.