An excerpt from Andrew Harvey's new book The Hope: A Guide To Sacred Activism.
An elderly black woman was brought by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission face to face with the man, Mr. Van de Broek, who had confessed to the savage torture and murder of both the woman's son and her husband a few years earlier. The old woman had been made to witness her husband's death. The last words of her husband had been "Father forgive them."
One of the members of the Commission turned to her and asked "How do you believe justice should be done to this man who has inflicted such suffering on you and so brutally destroyed your family?"
The old woman replied "I want three things. I want first to be taken to the place where my husband's body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial." She stopped, collected herself, and then went on. "My husband and son were my only family. I want, secondly, therefore, for Mr. Van de Broek to become my son. I would like for him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I can pour out to him whatever love I have still remaining with me. And finally, I want a third thing. I would like Mr. Van de Broek to know that I offer him my forgiveness because Jesus Christ died to forgive. This was also the wish of my husband. And so, I would kindly ask someone to come to my side and lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr. Van de Broek in my arms, embrace him, and let him know that he is truly forgiven."
The assistants came to help the old black woman across the room. Mr. Van de Broek, overwhelmed by what he had just heard, fainted. And as he did, those in the courtroom -- friends, family, neighbors -- all victims of decades of oppression and injustice -- began to sing "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me."
The first time I read this sacred story, one detail leapt out and felled me with its truth: "Mr. Van de Broek, overwhelmed by what he had just heard, fainted." Nothing in his brutal and degraded past could have prepared Mr. Van de Broek for what the black woman to whom he had given such pain gave him in return, not fury, nor a call for his execution, but unconditional forgiveness and a reclaiming of him into the human family as a whole and into her own immediate family. And the sacred power, flowing through her because of her humility and faith, did not merely "move" Mr. Van de Broek; it fell on him like invisible lightning from a dimension of pure love he may never have begun to suspect existed. In that moment, two extraordinary journeys, both terrible in different ways, intersected in an explosion of grace.