Stopping the Cycle of Revenge

Kudos to Ameneh Bahrami. She chose not to exact retribution on the man who attacked her, even though she had the legal system behind her. A few years ago, Ms. Bahrami rejected repeated marriage proposals from a fellow university student named Majid Movahedi. In retaliation, Movahedi threw acid into her face, severely disfiguring and blinding her. She had Movahedi prosecuted, and he was convicted. What makes this story even more interesting is that this occurred in Iran, and Ms. Bahrami is Muslim. Islamic Sharia law permits “qisas,” familiar to readers of the Hebrew Scriptures as “eye for an eye” retribution-in-kind. In this case, that was literally the sentence: the court ordered that five drops of sulfuric acid be placed in each of Movahedi’s eyes. Last week, when the deed was supposed to be done, Ms. Bahrami stopped it at the last minute, announcing that she had instead forgiven her attacker, and did not want revenge.
She has not released him from the consequences of his actions. She believes the man has not changed and is still dangerous, and wants him to spend his life in prison. She is also requesting financial compensation, as her future economic prospects are grim. (Read more at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/31/iran-acid-woman-pardons-attacker)
Exacting retribution is a basic human instinct of our fallen nature: you hurt me, so I want you to hurt too. In fact, I may want you to hurt even more than you hurt me, so Levitical law – which permits “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” – is actually a limitation on man’s insatiable desire for revenge. The most powerful way to stop the revenge cycle is forgiveness, exemplified by, and made possible through, Jesus Christ. Christians agree with this notion, but often in our hearts we still want revenge. This Muslim woman is a humbling example to us. She said she was motivated by the Koran: “The Koran gives you the right to retribution. But this very Koran also encourages you to pardon, since pardoning is one of the highest moral standards.” Christians have an even stronger reason to forgive: not only is it commanded by our holy book, the Bible, but it is exemplified in our God, Jesus Christ.  May Ameneh Bahrami’s pardon of her attacker serve as a reminder to all of us to rid our hearts of any desire for revenge. Consequences, yes; vengeance, no.

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