Forgiveness always impresses and attracts

Even in times of tragedy, faith in God can help us forgive, writes Andrew O’Connell

The issue of race relations is high on the agenda in the US this summer after incidents involving the deaths of African Americans by police. Four in 10 people questioned in a CBS/New York Times poll fear racial division is getting worse. The polls haven’t been this pessimistic since the Rodney King riots of 1992.

The shooting dead of nine people at a church in Charleston in South Carolina added to the summer of discontent. Much of the media coverage in the wake of the shooting has focused on the controversy around the flying of the Confederate flag at the State house in Columbia. 

The flag, a symbol of racism and slavery for many and an emblem of Southern pride to others, was removed a few weeks after the atrocity.  

There was another significant moment in the wake of the tragedy that will probably never feature on history’s pages. During the first court appearance of the accused man, Dylann Roof, family members of the murdered churchgoers made brief statements. Their words were a striking testament to the power of faith. 

One woman representing the family of the murdered pastor admitted: “I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I’m very angry.” 

But, she continued: “We have no room for hate. We have to forgive.” 

The daughter of another victim simply said: “God forgive you and I forgive you.”

One family member gave the accused some advice: “Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so he can change your ways no matter what happens to you and you’ll be OK. Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”

The chief magistrate pointed out that there were also victims on “the other side”. “There are victims on this young man’s side of the family,” he said. 

“Nobody would have ever thrown them into this whirlwind of events. We must find it in our heart, at some point in time, not only to help those that are victims but to also help his family as well.”

St Paul, writing to the Ephesians acknowledged that: “This may be a wicked age, but your lives should redeem it.” 

The lives, testimony and witness of Christians like these certainly have the power to redeem a bleak and tragic situation. 

When we talk about Christians being countercultural we often, understandably, think of the controversial social issues of the day. But showing forgiveness in a situation like this is powerful too. 

Demonstrating forgiveness is always impressive and attractive.  


Camino in kerry Some friends of mine are in Spain travelling a stage of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrimage has enjoyed a revival in popularity in recent times.

Irish people have been making this journey for centuries. Excavation work at Ardfert Cathedral, a few miles from Tralee, unearthed the distinctive scallop shell, carried home by pilgrims, in a tomb dated to the 14th or 15th Century. The well-preserved shell had a gilded figure of St James complete with pilgrim’s hat, satchel and staff. Camino shells have been found in graves in other parts of the country including in Tuam and Mullingar. 

Though the pilgrimage was likely the preserve of the wealthy it’s remarkable that long before the days of Ryanair, Irish men and women were making this pilgrimage to the continent.  


Words of wisdom Visitors to Tralee will enjoy a walk in the Rose Garden in the town park. Known locally as ‘The Green’, the park boasts several thousand roses in addition to a statue of Mary O’Connor, the original Rose of Tralee, with her lover, William Mulchinock.

It’s also the location of a monument to Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, the mother of JFK, which carries these words of wisdom: “I find it interesting to reflect on what has made my life, even with its moments of pain, an essentially happy one. I have come to the conclusion that the most important element in human life is faith.”  Words worth listening to as she lived to be 105 years of age.