Widow: "I Love and Forgive My Husband's Killers"
23 December 2013
In a number of recent articles I have been writing about the theory and theology of martyrdom. But today I want to share with you the story of a family who is radically living out this theory and theology this very month.
Here are some excerpts from an article which appeared on the CNN Web site a few days ago:
A widow says she forgives the attackers in Libya who gunned down her husband earlier this month as he went for a morning jog outside his home in Benghazi.Here are some things which Anita said during the interview which did not make it into CNN's written article:
Ronnie Smith, 33, was a chemistry teacher from Austin, Texas, who was working for more than a year in the International School Benghazi when four unidentified assailants in a black Jeep fatally shot him December 5.
"I just envision the black Jeep driving up to him and I don't know their faces. I just want them to know that God loves them and can forgive them for this," Anita Smith tells CNN's Anderson Cooper in an interview.
Emotion broke her voice as she spoke.
"I don't know them. That's how I honestly feel. It may sound crazy. It's God's spirit that's putting this inside me," she added.
Smith said she didn't feel any anger or want any revenge against the killers of her husband.
"I just really want them to know that I do love them and I forgive them, and Ronnie would want this, and I hope and pray that our son, Hosea, would believe this," she said.
"Yeah, they took away my husband. I loved my husband. But it's got to be God's spirit that's pushing me to show them that this is what God wants them to see," she said.
"It's not about what Ronnie did, it's what Ronnie wanted to show to the Libyan people, and that's — he wanted to shine the light and the love of Jesus to the Libyan people that he knew. He really did. He didn't want any attention onto himself, about being a good guy, or a good teacher, or the fun teacher. It was just about the love and the forgiveness that we know from God. That's what he wants to leave behind.Here's the interview which you can watch for yourself:
"I pray with all my heart that the attackers — that maybe this incident will call them to know the love and the forgiveness that's found in Jesus. I really do.
"It's got to be God's Spirit pouring into me, replacing the anger with His love. He wants them to see that love and forgiveness is real, even if they've done this to my husband. And I want them to see this and to know this.
"We want Hosea our son to know that we love him so much, and Ronnie loved him so much. What Ronnie and I would want as parents for Hosea is that — God loves him more, and God wants him to know, just and Ronnie and I want him to know, that there's no greater thing to live your life for than to live for Jesus. And Ronnie didn't waste his life. So that's what Ronnie and I want Hosea to see."
You can also see a list of many more written and video reports, in English and Arabic, from numerous media Web sites around the globe.
Finally, here is an open letter from the widow of Ronnie Smith to the Libyan people:
My husband and best friend Ronnie Smith loved the Libyan people. For more than a year, Ronnie served as a chemistry teacher in a school in Benghazi, and he would gladly have given more years to Libya if unknown gunmen had not cut his life short on December 5, 2013.
Ronnie and I came to Libya because we saw the suffering of the Libyan people, but we also saw your hope, and we wanted to partner with you to build a better future. Libya was very different from what we had experienced before, but we were excited to learn about Libyan culture. Ronnie grew to love you and your way of life, as did I. Ronnie really was "Libya's best friend."
Friends and family from home were concerned about our safety, as were some of you. We talked about this more times than I can count. But we stayed because we believed the Libyan people were worth the risk. Even knowing what I know now, I have no doubt that we would both make the same decision all over again.
Ronnie loved you all so much, especially his students. He loved to joke with you, tell stories about you, help you with your lives and challenge you to be all that you could be. He did his best to live out his faith humbly and respectfully within a community of people with a different faith.
To his attackers: I love you and I forgive you.
How could I not? For Jesus taught us to "Love our enemies" — not to kill them or seek revenge. Jesus sacrificed His life out of love for the very people who killed him, as well as for us today. His death and resurrection opened the door for us to walk on the straight path to God in peace and forgiveness.
Because of what Jesus did, Ronnie is with Jesus in paradise now. Jesus did not come only to take us to paradise when we die, but also to bring peace and healing on this earth. Ronnie loved you because God loves you. Ronnie loved you because God loved him — not because Ronnie was so great, but because God is so great.
To the Libyan people: I always expected that God would give us a heart to love you, but I never expected you to love us so much. We came to bless you, but you have blessed us much more. Thank you. Thank you for your support and love for Ronnie and our son Hosea and me. Since Ronnie's death my love for you has increased in ways that I never imagined. I feel closer to you now than ever before.
I hear people speaking with hate, anger and blame over Ronnie's death, but that's not what Ronnie would want. Ronnie would want his death to be an opportunity for us to show one another love and forgiveness, because that's what God has shown us.
I want all of you — all of the people of Libya — to know I am praying for the peace and prosperity of Libya. May Ronnie's blood, shed on Libyan soil, encourage peace and reconciliation between the Libyan people and God.
Sincerely, Anita Smith