Conversation with the Creator as an exercise of Care of the Self By Teodros kiros

January 27th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Two Ethiopians are engaged in a passionate conversation on the idea of forgiveness and how it applies to the jailed Derg officials. The conversation leads both to an impasse, and they both say that they are going to leave the matter to the creator. Both of them close their eyes while praying at church and they beg the Creator to listen to them, and so the loving Creator does.

The first Ethiopian reports to God that not all the jailed member of the Derg belong to the same fabric. That they are unique individuals and that he could think of at least seven types. There are

(1) those who are naturally vicious and almost joyously carried out the rapes, murders, and lootings of Ethiopians;

(2) Those who carried out orders afraid that if they did not, they will be the ones who will be gone;

(3) Those who carried out their tasks but took the pain and the regret out on their families at night.

(4) The confused ones who did not even know what they were doing but did it anyway.

(5) Those who prayed to the Lord to free them from this burden, but the Lord did not immediately answer.

(6) Those who believed in the ideology of the Derg and performed their tasks with righteousness as love of country
Finally,

(7) The mentally insane but did not even know it.

It is only the jailed individuals who know with absolute clarity which type they are. Only they know. More importantly, the Creator himself knows. Of these types, it is those who are in (1) who have engaged in acts which cannot be forgiven by human beings.

Only the Creator can forgive the unforgivable, although true forgiveness is forgiving the unforgivable, but is hard for human beings.

The young man then breaks to tears when he is haunted by the image of his wife whose limbs were quartered when she was violently pulled out by a Derg soldier, and he now wonders, if he was the (1) type, who performed his task joyously; or
perhaps, the (7) type, who did not know what he was doing.

He asks the Creator, what he should do. When he thinks of forgiveness, he tells the creator, he is saddled by immense confusion, about the different types. Surely, as a Christian, he must forgive, but those whom he should forgive as the list above indicated are of various kinds, and that they merit different kinds of forgiveness.

The Creator finally speaks and says,

“Dear Son. Do not worry. You must know, however, that there are two kinds of justice and forgiveness. The first form is human. The second form is Transcendental. Humans must practice the first form. The Creator practices the second form. Your self-imposed duty is to forgive all of them with different intensities and measures, and leave the rest to me, your Creator. “

He assured him that he appreciated his careful reflection and that ultimate justice and forgiveness will be dispensed in the other world and that none of these members are going to escape the just punishment. The young Ethiopian is satisfied and looks up to the sky and thanks the Creator for speaking to him.

The other Ethiopian who has been quiet also speaks to the Lord and says to him that he cannot forgive these criminals and that the Creator must punish them here and now, and that he wants the punishment, if possible, in public squares for all the surviving families to witness to their hearts delight. He tells God that he is hurt and angry, and cannot forgive or forget. Infact, he is afraid that if these criminals are released, they may start another movement and do it all over again. He says that he is not even sure that these criminals have repented, and that they might even think that they have been unjustly jailed and may become human rights activists. He tells the Lord that he does not trust them and that the only solution is their eradication from the face of the earth.

The Lord listens, patiently, and acknowledges his hurt and understands his mistrust, but he advises the Ethiopian to reflect on the matter by using reason, since he senses that his emotion is governing his behavior and his spiritedness is overcoming him. He advises him to allow reason to govern emotion and to silence spiritedness.

The Lord tells him that he understands his passion and his quest for revenge. He assures him that he would not be human, if he did not feel this passion, but he must try to subdue it with reason. He reminds him that he endowed him with reason precisely because he knows that he is an emotive being, a part of his humanity. The revenge that he feels deeply is a just one. It is a quest for justice, and that he (Lord) will dispense with this justice. The Creator is aware that there is evil in the world, and that it may still be hidden in the dark. He will take care of that also. The Creator gently begs him to trust him
and to be patient with the Lord’s ways. His moral duty is to trust him and forgive the officials for now. Justice will be fully served in time, after the human forgiveness is performed here, in accordance with the human form of forgiveness.

The Lord tells him that his duty is to forgive, and to understand that the Lord will indeed judge the members by a higher standard of the Law, that he has created. He reminds him that the Lord is not a revengeful creator but a Just and forgiving one. The Lord asks him, if I can forgive, why is that you cannot?

The Ethiopian is challenged, and he becomes still. In stillness, he thinks deeply, and this comportment enormously pleased the Creator, and he expressed his happiness to the Ethiopian, without words.

Dear Lord, do you remember this heart-breaking story.

“The former Makalawi prisoners that we interviewed said that late on the night of October 7, 1979, a truck arrived in the prison compound and twenty prisoners were offloaded. The night was cold and many of the new prisoners had wrapped themselves in blankets. They were put in holding cells apart from the main cellblock. The next morning, at 10-20 minutes intervals, the guards called out each of the twenty new prisoners by name and, one by one, they were marched away. Ten Makalawi prisoners were similarly called out and taken away. The thirty men never returned, and by late afternoon rumors began to circulate that they had all been executed.”

How can I not remember it, since I cause everything? Do not worry; they will pay a prize in my kingdom, where every act is judged perfectly. All the victims of the Derg’s terror will stand in higher judgment.

For now, the Creator gently asks him to consider for the second time, to forgive; the unforgivable acts of the imprisoned Derg members. They will be judged perfectly by the Perfect Lord, who has his own form of justice and forgiveness.

My son, the Lord says,

“ True forgiveness is forgiving the unforgivable”.

  1. ዚጋ
    | #1

    Dear Tewodros (Dr.):

    First and foremost I want to thank you for what you wrote. This is really a great contribution in many ways for us Ethiopians. Having said that, I want to express my feelings and understandings about the issue- forgiving prisoners of the Derg officials. I do not say don’t forgive them. In fact, those who truly forgive their persecutors reap more than the persecutors be it here on earth or in Heaven. But I’m deeply sicken by those who raised the issue, i.e., Meles and Co.(the devil and his demons- TPLF & Aba G/Medhin & his demons).

    We Ethiopians of today are really coward people. Cowards do not have their own idea/vision. They are simply a leaf in the wind. That is what saddens me a lot deep in my heart. No political party, no organization of any kind, no “Mihur” or elite has a single idea that has gone in advance and shaken Meles’ poison agenda. Rather they are following swiftly and rush to carryout what he has said/told them to do (Reconciliation of the EOTC fathers, forgiving Derg prisoners, etc…) while the time is well reap for other things. This is simply the tactic of the Orangutan Meles Zenawi and his demons. Where was he 20 years ago while many innocent young boys and girls were crying and dying for such and other questions…. I’m sick and has no the gut to talk about it… Sorry! Now is simply let Meles and his demons surrender for the best of themselves and Ethiopians at large.

    Yakoyen.

  2. ዚጋ
    | #2

    Dear Tewodros (Dr.):

    First and foremost I want to thank you for what you wrote. This is really a great contribution in many ways for us Ethiopians. Having said that, I want to express my feelings and understandings about the issue- forgiving prisoners of the Derg officials. I do not say don’t forgive them. In fact, those who truly forgive their persecutors reap more than the persecutors be it here on earth or in Heaven. But I’m deeply sicken by those who raised the issue, i.e., Meles and Co.(the devil and his demons- TPLF & Aba G/Medhin & his demons).

    We Ethiopians of today are really coward people. Cowards do not have their own idea/vision. They are simply a leaf in the wind. That is what saddens me a lot deep in my heart. No political party, no organization of any kind, no “Mihur” or elite has a single idea that has gone in advance and shaken Meles’ poison agenda. Rather they are following swiftly and rush to carryout what he has said/told them to do (Reconciliation of the EOTC fathers, forgiving Derg prisoners, etc…) while the time is well reap for other things. This is simply the tactic of the Orangutan Meles Zenawi and his demons. Where was he 20 years ago while many innocent young boys and girls were crying and dying for such and other questions…. Moreover, the holy fathers of our Orthodox church (mind you not all fathers can be fathers of the church even if they are Orthodox and serve in the church- this is a great title given to those very few and elected fathers that have followed our Lord according to His teachings and their preaching, i.e., “If you want to be My disciple, Carry your cross and follow Me every day”) teach us that “NEVER OBEY the DEVIl IN ANYTHING, EVEN IF IT IS NO TRANSGRESSION OF the LAW.” To listen and worse to carry out according to the schedule laid out by Meles and his demon Aba G/Medhin… Oh! My God. I’m sick and has no the gut to talk about it… Sorry! Now is simply let Meles and his demons surrender for the best of themselves and Ethiopians at large.

    Yakoyen.

  3. Tegga Lendado
    | #3

    Wow! What a soul-soothing piece to a genuinely justice-seeking spiritual person who trusts in the power and integrity of the Creator! The Bible (Read 1Cor. 2) talks of two kinds of wisdom, namely the natural and the spiritual. The natural one is lead by the naural human spirit which dwells in the flesh, that has not been transformed by the “Transcendant Spirit”. The carnal spirit would not understand or appreciate the functions of the Transcedant Spirit of God. The natural man functions on the natural realm and does not see what the “Transcendant Spirit” can or could or will or would do. Then we have the Spiritual wisdom that the natural man detests, dispises and rejects.

    To be frank with you, my natural spirit is vexed with the very thought of forgiveness and pardon. The Creator’s unmerited, sometimes unsolicited and forgiveness of heinous sinners perplexes me. But, then, I say “Allahu Akbar” (just to borrow the Arabic language here, not the religion). Indeed the Creator is Great and Eternal. His system of justice is totally different from ours. But He has given us principles to follow. We would never regret fogiving; but we may regret pardoning a habitual criminal!

    Coming back to the issue of fogiving the Dirgue culprits, I would be the first one to fogive Srt. Legesse Asfaw who followed me in his brand new yellow Lada from Zewditu Hospital to the end of the hill of Jublee Palace. I was traveling with a speed of a tortoise in an old 1959 Volkswagen when he was following me uphill, pointing a gun at me! When I recognized it was the notorious Srt., I remember yielding to my right but was afraid of the Palace guards shooting at me. I turned left to Teferi Benti’s residence, just accross from the Jubilee Palace, guarded by a bunch of military-police who also pointed their guns toward me. I made a U-turn as the Srt. followed me very closely. At that point, I was totally disoriented, surrounded by a group of Palace soldiers. The Srt. hurled words of ugly insults at me. The last words I remember were, “Askonagn, Atawqegnim, Menged Yemtleleq”. The he geared back to the road. That was in March 1978 during the Red/White terror. He could have killed me at the spot. But, God…

    Being a Christian technocrat, I took opportunities of challenging a few Dirgue members and their pundits who gave me contemptous direct orders disregarding their “proper channel”. Many of my close friends and family members were killed by them, their supporters or opponents (Red Terrorists). Now, I have to forgive them not only out of pious pity, but for own my personal peace with myself and our Creator. As for the pardon and administration of justice, I do not know because I am not in that capacity. I know there are far more many horrifying stories of our people victimized by these culprits and many other collaborators whom we may never know or see. Only God knows best and let Him deal with them with His justice. I would forgive because I trust God’s intellegence (all-knowing power), ever present power and eternal justice. I would forgive them because any one because I do not want to hinder God’s vindicative justice (Rom. 12:19-21). Vengence is of the Lord! I would fogive because I am also a sinner. Had it not been for His unmerited kindness which led me to know and fear God, and love and respect human beings and my country, I would have been like any one of them. Because I am being forgiven everyday when I only Itruthfully repent, I know and feel I am fogiven and liberated from the chain of guilt and shame.

    In essence, I choose to forgive but not forget. God fogives me thousands times a day and I forgive a few times a day. I know many others forgive may me many times a day too. This world is full of hurt and guilt. Without fogiveness we would have been chewing up each other. Just look how many people hurt today and try not to look the other way. You will be condescending to their level if you do not forgive them. Insult those who insult you; look down on thsoe who look down on you. Back-bite those who back-bite you; hurt those who hurt you emotionally, physically and mentally. Let us be a tolerant society! Let God be the Ultimate Judge.

  4. Selamta
    | #4

    Tegga Lendado,
    You summed it up perfectly. When Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing,” he was not only referring to the Roman soldiers that were gambling for his cloth, but also telling us all that sinners are unconscious and disconnected from their inner Being.
    He didn’t call them evil or crazy, he rather dissected them into the ‘self’ and the ‘doing.’ I have in the past reanalyzed my repetitive spontaneous judgement few seconds after the wrong words came out of my mouth and questioned myself why I did that. I later learned that there is the judgmental mind on the outside and the conscious soul on the inside and the unconscious me was always in the foreground, taking over me. Some people realize their mistakes right away while others are numb for a life time. Vengeance, anger, jealousness, war, etc., are created and driven by those who are asleep while forgiveness emanates from the soul, the inner Being or God. I too do my part and forgive those who sinned instead of waiting for the court’s decision. Remember, day-in and day-out we pray, “…forgive us the wrong we have done as we forgive those who wrong us…” If we don’t practice it, why do we say it? Let’s first change ourselves as Jesus urged us in the speck and log parable and Prof Teodros reminded us in his writings. That same spirit was behind Gandhi when he once said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
    Cheers!

  5. Tegga Lendado
    | #5

    Tahnk you, Selamta. You are a rare breed who seems to be allergic to hypocrasy! We pray that prayer very often yet we do not realize that God expects us to forgive others before we ask for our own fogiveness. In fact pesistent unforgivess besides being a deblitating disease eating up your spirit,soul and self, it often becomes contageous and affects your relations, friends and family members. Before you know it, you can be a liabilty to your community. So, I continually and delibrately choose to forgive so that my soul, spirit and self may be enslaved to the sin of unforgiveness. Oh! How we need to forgive each other.

    Now forgiveness is different from pardon or amnesty, both of which are administered by an authority, be it government, head of household, etc. All offenses must carry consequences. Otherwise, the world would be unbearable! It is one thing to forgive them and quite another to pardon them or grant them amnesty. Emperor Haile Sellassie gave me a personal amnesty once, and group amnesty many times. I was falsely accused of insulting him and his government, Arogie Negus, Arogie Agezaz! Did forgive me? I do not know. Only God does.

    The Bible says the soul that sins shall die. The wages of sin is death and without the shading of the blood there is redemption. One sinless Man died in behalf of all humanity so God’s law would be appeased. So, forgiveness is a given in the life of a Christian. I do not know very much about other religions! I do not know what atheist communists would do or think either. But, I appreciate Ghandi for what you just quoted above.

    Sometimes the hurt is so deep that you do not know how to revenge or retaliate enough. But, why even worry when you know the old adge what goes around comes around. It is only God who can sufficiently revenge or retaliate. If you try to do it yourself, you are pushing God out of the picture and stand in lieu of the offender, simply because you have given God His proper place. The position of revenge is His.

  6. Tegga Lendado
    | #6

    Dear Professor,

    I am not a lawyer or a judge but I have enough common sense to perceive your beautiful analysis above. I agree with you philosophically. I also feel the hurt of my people. I was there then and perhaps, I am still there now in my mind, even after the departure of the Dirgue and their associates. I need to be delivered, don’t I? I do not know if I have done anything wrong to any one except, of course, the fact that I was not as vocal as I am now. For the few times I tried to be vocal, I paid the price dearly. I am not inclined to politics, neither to advocacy. Somehow, I have been involved in peace, justice and reconciliation movements comprizing all Chrisitan denominations in the world mainly after I left Ethiopia. Let me now quickly go back the discussion you provoked.

    Under normal circumstances, amnesty and pardon are granted to convicts or culprits upon request. Where there is anarchy, untended revolution, turmoil, popular unrest, rage and hatred, justice cannot be served. Amnesty and pardon cannot be effectively administered. Whoever has the gun becomes the judge, the police and the law in his own right. Might then becomes right.

    Those Dirgue members did not know any better. Some of them were common criminals who happened to be there for the reason. They neither had respect for the people nor did they have fear for God. They did not have any moral conscience. I bet they never felt any remorse or guilt committing murder, rape, etc., giving orders to their subjects. Besides, their subjects did not have any conscience either. If they had it, they would have stood for justice, at least, challenging their bosses with the truth. To me, that is patriotism and love of the motherland!

    As for the confused ones, who might have been mentally disturbed or functionally disabled, they could be forgiven but need to be under a watch care or institutional establishment for their own or public safety.
    They should be treated with dignity and respect as fellow human beings. I would categorize these with (7) unless they prove otherwise.

    Those who prayed to the Lord for their sin are already forgiven, according to the scriptures. That means they are ready to receive the human justice whether life imprisonment or capital punishment, etc., depending upon the severity of the crime and the penal code of the time during the crime. However, they if they are courageous enough to recount the details of their crimes, recant their deeds and request forgiveness from the surviving family members of the victims and the Ethiopian people as a whole, they should be allowed to serve in useful manner.

    As for, “Those who believed in the ideology of the Derg and performed their tasks with righteousness as love of country”, they should be rewarded for their accomplishments but re-introduced to democracy and rule of law. This may be a probationary reintegration process to the free society.

    I think you should separate those believed in the ideolog and those who did not believe in the ideology from the outset. I, for one, never believed in communism unlike my classmates at the Polytechnic. Influenced by the Russian professors, majority of the students of Polytechnic were pro-communists. I was never impressed by the ideology simply because I felt it reduces a person to a life-less object, devoid of the incentive to compete, excell and achieve. My Christian upbringing helped me to cling to the Bible and I am stuck with it till now!

    Lastly, I think the prisoners themselves would wish to secure fogiveness, if not pardon from the Ethiopian people. The Ethiopian people, particularly, the victims of the Dirgue crime and injustices should forgive them and make peace with itself. We cannot afford another destructive revolution before we reconcile with the former revolution and revolutionaries. I stand to be corrected if I erred. Forgive my ignorane and please, help me learn. Let us maintain our Ethiopian civility in our communication, Wogenoch!

    Thank you and God bless you.

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