Friday, October 06, 2006

The simple dignity and humbling forgiveness of the Amish People

Whoever hears of the story of the school room massacre of 5 Amish girls, is surely not only struck by the tragedy but also by the forgiveness of the Amish people which seems simply astounding.

I know little about the Amish and the bit I do mainly comes from the film "Witness" staring Harrison Ford. In that film a young Amish boy witnesses a brutal murder and is hunted by those behind the murder. Harrison Ford's character, a policeman, knows too much about the murky circumstances and after helping the boy to safety is forced to seek sanctuary with the Amish.

The Amish come across in the film as a strong and stoical people but also profoundly good. They reject the modern world and live without cars and electricity. There is nothing threatening about this rejection. It is a choice and their lives do not suffer as the result of such decisions. They simply want to live away from the modern influences of the world, in accordance to their beliefs.

Yet they accept the world around them and do not seek to spread their lifestyle. They are no Christian taleban seeking to impose on others. Above all they want nothing more than to be left alone to get on with their lives.
It is so sad, therefore, that a maniac sought to show them the very worst side of the modern world. Yet the compassion of the Amish to the wife and family of the killer shows the true nature of these people.

They believe that it is not their place to judge others- judgement can come only from God. "Judge not for ye shall be judged".

The Amish are an inspiration even if their morality and forgiveness sets a standard few of us in the wider world could meet. They live in a world without cars, electricity and few other modern conveniences. Yet their sense of community and strength of spirit shows a richness rarely found elsewhere.In a sense they are the ultimate environmentalists, leaving hardly any "carbon footprint" in their natural lives. However their education is strong- the class that were massacred were learning German, the language of their forefathers. Compare that to the rest of the US and the Anglo-Saxon world that is mainly linguistically illiterate.

The Amish have known persecution in their history. Now their separateness and distinctive dress make them an object of curiosity in the modern world.
Yes in this great metropolis of London amid the bustle and chaos of urban life, where only this week railway ticket collectors attempted to throttle a fare-evading passenger, I believe we could all benefit from being a little closer to the lifestyle, values and beliefs of those Amish people in rural Pennsylvania. Maybe their separateness and decision to stay off the roller-coaster of modern life gives them a sense of balance and perspective that we are missing. They are unaffected by the soap opera of politics and celebrity and adhere to timeless values. Above all they are true to their beliefs. I find them a humbling inspiration.

God bless the Amish people. Link to website maintained by friends of the Amish people in Pennsylvania.

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