She didn’t need to carry the bitterness

Since the Peruvian government is considering enacting the death penalty as punishment for convicted terrorists, I thought it would be interesting for my bible study group to reflect on its morality in light of the scriptures. I must admit I wondered what the ladies would think of the topic since we rarely talk about larger scale social issues; we mostly talk about daily life.

All of the women with whom I meet every Wednesday afternoon work in their homes taking care of their families. The majority of them can’t read and their days consist of going to market, cooking, washing clothes and caring for their children, spouses and extended family. They cook on dirt floors using firewood and charcoal briquettes. They work hard and seem grateful for the opportunity to sit a bit every Wednesday at 4 p.m. and reflect on the Word of God.

That afternoon we read the scriptures for the coming Sunday and I told they ladies how I’d been in Lima the week before and about the anti-death penalty protest I’d witnessed. They were largely silent. I wondered, “Were they confused? Did they understand my words?”

The first woman to share spoke of her nephew who had been murdered about six months ago. Another woman, who always comes to the bible study accompanied by her mother Rosa, began to share about her older brother who, a number of years ago stumbled into their home, stabbed by a knife. He died in Rosa’s arms. In both cases, they know who the killer was, but neither person was ever “brought to justice.”

With moist eyes, I tentatively asked Rosa how she felt about the person who killed her son. My question seemed to surprise her. She began to talk very quietly about how the sadness and the pain of her son’s death were enough – she didn’t need to carry the bitterness that comes with hate and lack of forgiveness in her heart as well. Everyone nodded in silent ascent. Another mother in the group spoke of how one of her children is a gang member and she knows he is responsible for violence. I realized that violent death touches the lives of every person in the group and that everyone agreed that violence for violence only brings more bitterness and hate.

This very simple “uneducated” group of women knows all about the morality of the death penalty. I walked into this bible study session thinking we would be talking about a “larger scale social issue” and we wound up talking about daily life.