This is the seventh and final post in Faith Bites’ 2017 Lenten blog series.

There are all kinds of times in our lives when forgiveness is required. Some times are small like when someone steps on your toes or forgets your birthday. Then there’s the monumental times when someone intentionally hurts you. This is when forgiveness can be hard; these are the times when we may not choose to forgive. Before going to South Africa this summer I could not imagine a situation I would be in where I would need to forgive, that is until I visited the Amy Biehl Foundation. Based outside of Cape Town, this foundation provides programs for youth in Cape Town so that they get an education as opposed to moving their attention to the streets where they may engage in illegal activities. The story behind this place is truly where we see the value of forgiveness. It begins in 1970 in South Africa, a time when Apartheid was still incredibly prevalent and white people were viewed as the enemy by many.

As a Fulbright Scholar from Stanford University, Amy was working in townships (where black people were forced to move during Apartheid), helping women vote. She was very much anti- apartheid, encouraging empowerment within places of poverty– helping people– more specifically women, understand their rights. Unfortunately, because she was white, she was someone many were automatically against. Skin color was incredibly important because at this time in South Africa it determined everything. Amy had been with her friends when they approached a black mob where Amy was pulled from her car and stoned to death; she was set to return home to her family in California the next week. The men who killed her were set to be prosecuted but their trial was taken to President Nelson Mandela where all three men were granted amnesty through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1997. Amy’s parents spoke to the men at the trial, announcing something that shocked and angered many: we forgive you.  Many were outraged and confused as they struggled to grasp how the pain her parents must have felt could have been shaped into giving her killers a sense of relief.

When considering this I think of what Amy’s dad Peter said at the trial. He used the quote “the most important vehicle of reconciliation is open and honest dialogue” taken from a peice Amy had written, and then related it back to the importance of their daughter’s legacy, saying, “We are here to reconcile a human life which was taken without an opportunity for dialogue. When we are finished with this process we must move forward with linked arms.” It is a simple yet powerful statement that sums up the purpose of reconciliation in its entirety: to move forward, together. The power they had in them to reconcile came from their ability within them to forgive. I think the most important thing to consider here is that when making this monumental life choice the Biehls did not consider themselves; they took into account their daughter’s thoughts and actions; how she would want her life to be remembered.

With this in mind the Biehls created The Amy Biehl Foundation in memory of their daughter. The kicker was who they hired to help them run it. Two of the men who had participated in their daughter’s murder now run programs within the foundation because Amy’s parents chose to forgive. Resentment is  another funny thing because I think it can consume you in the same way guilt can. No one controls it but you. It’s a weight you can choose to carry, holding a grudge, but you may begin to find it’s too heavy. If you put everything you have into holding onto your anger, you may miss out on some incredible opportunities.

There are so many moments in life we miss because we are consumed. Some things swallow us whole, making us think there’s no way out while other things eat at us slowly, sucking the life out of us as we try to continue on. Some things we can control, others we cannot. Fortunately, forgiveness is in our realm of control. Amy’s parents chose to use this power to foster relationships, better the Cape Town community, and continue to fulfill their daughter’s legacy. If this were to happen to me I don’t know if I could forgive. I don’t know if I have that power within me, but through this foundation Amy’s parents have shown that anything is possible.

Forgiveness takes trust and selflessness in their purest forms. Without these two traits there is a slim chance anyone would be able to move on, but I think that is the key to it all. Wanting to move on, wanting to let go of holding onto someone else’s guilt, wanting and wishing for the best results in the worst of situations. It seems to cost a pretty penny but when you are able to, in the words of Amy’s father, “move forward together with linked arms,” forgiveness is a small price to pay.

Naomi Hill is a senior at Enloe High School in Raleigh. She is a member of the Diocesan Chartered Committee for Youth and has been on team for numerous diocesan events including Happening, Bishops Ball, Genesis, and HUGS. Naomi was also a part of Lift Every Voice, a three-year program about racial injustice. Naomi and other youth from the program traveled to South Africa this past summer to learn more about truth and reconciliation.