A Miracle of Forgiveness
This story comes from a remarkable pioneer in the church today, Sahar Qumsiyeh, who is the first Palestinian Mormon to go on a full time mission and is currently serving in London. She was interviewed by the Mormon Women Project, and told this story of finding the ability to forgive her enemies through the love of Christ.
Dealing with the (Palestinian/Israeli) conflict has been a real challenge internally. I’ve seen a lot of injustices done to my people over the years: restricted travel and curfews, friends or relatives arrested or shot for no reason, humiliation, loss of identity, house demolitions. When I was 16 years old and attending Bethlehem University for my undergraduate degree, there was a demonstration on campus and some Israeli soldiers shot a student. The soldiers wouldn’t allow us to take him to a hospital. For two hours, he lay with a bullet hole in his head. That day, I developed feelings of hate towards the Israelis because of what I witnessed them do to my people. After I joined the Church, that hatred kind of dissolved, but I still didn’t love them.
One day when I was trying to go through the checkpoint to attend church, one of the Israeli soldiers told me to go back; he said I wasn’t allowed in. I looked into his eyes and remembered a scripture I read in Matthew that morning in which the Savior said, “Love your enemies.” It occurred to me that I didn’t love the Israelis, and it really bothered me that I could not obey one of the Savior’s commandments. I struggled with that and didn’t know how to overcome those feelings. I came across a scripture in Moroni—chapter 7, verse 48—which talks about charity as the pure love of Christ. It reads, “Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love.” I decided that this was the only way to gain love for my enemies; I couldn’t love them through my efforts alone. I needed help from my Savior who had perfect charity for everyone. He was able to love and forgive the very soldiers who crucified Him. If anyone knew how to love, He did, and I knew He could teach me. I decided to ask Heavenly Father to help me because living with anger and hatred damages the soul.
I prayed for this for a long time, and I thought He didn’t answer, because I didn’t notice a particular change. But about a year after I started praying, I was passing through one of the checkpoints and I looked into the eyes of a soldier (who told me to turn back) and felt an amazing love for him. I knew that we were all children of God, and we don’t have to hate the people who do bad things to us; we can just hate their actions, but we don’t have to hate the people themselves. It was a tremendous comfort to me to learn that when Heavenly Father tells us to do something, He provides a way for us to obey His commandments.
The Palestinians and Israelis are seeking to establish peace. In order to do that, they have met at a negotiation table for years. I believe the only true peace has to come from the Prince of Peace himself, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The peace that the Holy Ghost brought into my life after I was baptized has remained with me during days of trouble and conflict. The Savior said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Only He can soften hearts, provide feelings of charity, and supply that peace that my country needs.