John Jalsevac


How to forgive a mass murderer? One Sandy Hook victim’s father shows us the way forward

John Jalsevac

I don’t know Robbie Parker. But based upon an interview he gave to the media the day after his daughter Emilie was shot and killed at Sandy Hook school, he is an extraordinary, even a saintly, man.

The last thing on the minds of most people following the tragic shooting that left 20 children dead, is minimizing the horror of what Adam Lanza did. Anger is the natural human response to such a monstrous crime, and accordingly many have simply labeled Lanza a “monster,” and moved on.

But for Robbie Parker that isn’t good enough. For Robbie Parker, evidently a strongly believing Christian, evil doesn’t have the last say, and while anger would be justified, there is something even better: forgiveness, mercy, and compassion.

The day after the shooting, Parker appeared in front of the media and, choking back tears, urged his listeners not to turn the shooting “into something that defines us, but something that inspires us to be better, to be more compassionate and more humble people.”

Parker also extended an olive branch to Lanza’s family, offering them his “love and support,” saying, “I can’t imagine how hard this experience must be for you.”

Much of the media has reported that Robbie forgave Adam Lanza, the alleged shooter, in his statement. However, Robbie didn’t specifically say anything to that effect. But it is easy to see how the media extrapolated that from his remarks. Robbie’s statement was calm, compassionate, and free of all bitterness. It was extraordinary.

“I’m not mad,” he said. “If there’s anything I can do to help anyone anywhere, I’m willing to do that.”

I don’t know if I would have the same strength as Robbie in the same circumstances. I hope I would, but I sincerely doubt it. At the same time, I can recognize his statement for what it is - the best possible response under the circumstances. The only one that will lead to healing in the long term. And the only one that will absolutely ensure that evil does not win the day in Newtown.

Perhaps it is pointing out the obvious to observe that Robbie’s response mirrors that of Jesus Christ who, on the Cross, prayed for his executioners, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Robbie Parker is an example of how to change the world. May God grant him, his wife, and his two surviving children peace.

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