A Love That Forgives
By Anton Meemana
Anton Meemana’s article, Long day’s Journey into Light, appeared in Misyon in November-December 2001. He wrote there about growing up in Sri Lanka, how he became a Marxist, and how a Catholic nun helped him to come to the Philippines where he was eventually to discover Jesus Christ. Here he reflects on God’s love for him and the demands of that love.
When I reflect on my 13 years in the Philippines there are certain things beyond any rational explanation. Why the Philippines? Why not Malaysia or Indonesia or Taiwan or some other country? I didn’t know a single Filipino when I arrived in 1989 and had only $ 250 in my pocket. How did I survive for thirteen years?
">I experienced, of course, the goodness and hospitality of Filipinos but there is still something that I cannot fully grasp. There is some explanation beyond the human horizon. My experience is, firstly, that there is a mysterious force at work in our lives, call it whatever we will, God, Allah, Yahweh, that is nothing more and nothing less than Love. Love is the force that governs our destiny. Secondly, there is no person like Jesus of Nazareth. He alone is the Savior. He is the Lord of Life. He died exactly the way he lived. He lived loving people and died loving people. My real understanding of Jesus came through his death: why he died and how he died.
Struggle to Forgive
To be a follower of Jesus is a demanding and life-long process. For me, the most difficult struggle was with my understanding of forgiveness. There was a time I wanted to take revenge on certain persons. I wanted to swim in their blood, to drink their blood – I don’t know how to say it.
In my early teens I was captured and gang-raped by a group of men, some of them soldiers. I resisted at first but there was no way I could overpower them. So I surrendered. Life has never been the same since that awful happening. I made sure nobody would know about it, especially my family. I felt guilty, wretched and filthy and lost my sense of dignity and self-worth.
The only way out
I was able to bury that painful memory until I watched the The Prince of Tides in 1992. The whole incident resurfaced and emotional floodgates opened. It’s hard to describe the agony I’ve been going through ever since. But I know that forgiveness, especially of one’s enemies, is the heart of the Gospel message. It’s also the most difficult part of the Gospel. I don’t have the unconditional love of Jesus. But this much I can say today: I will not take revenge on those who violated me. I will not kill them if I happen to meet them. I have forgiven them, though with great difficulty. I want my forgiveness to be real. If it were easy it would be meaningless. Even from my grave I will forgive them. To live is to forgive. To live fully is to forgive perpetually. The world will be saved by forgiveness and Christianity is the religion of forgiveness.
I also came to the realization that to take revenge on others is, paradoxically, to take revenge on myself. If I kill my enemy I become like my enemy. There has to be another way out: Christianity is that way out.