Forgiveness in the Balkans
Eastern Mennonite Mission worker witnesses reconciliation at milk co-op.by Jewel Showalter of Eastern Mennonite Missions
One day last September, when Hasan* and Mike* had finished testing and receiving milk at the community milk co-op, a new customer pulled up to the building. Mike is an Eastern Mennonite Missions worker.
As he walked toward the door to enter the center, Hasan turned suddenly and disappeared into the lab at the back of the building.
"Can you handle the new customer?" Mike, unsure of himself in the local language, called after Hasan. But Hasan didn’t appear.
Puzzled, Mike met the new farmer and managed to talk him through the process, welcoming him to bring milk to the co-op. Several more farmers arrived, and Mike momentarily forgot Hasan's strange disappearance.
Then he got a call from Ferhat,* the local co-op manager, inviting him out for coffee. Over coffee Ferhat explained Hasan’s strange disappearance. There was a longstanding "blood feud" between Hasan’s extended family and the new customer’s family. Four years ago, Hasan’s uncle had been attacked and stabbed by a member of the new customer's family.
Although the uncle hadn't died, he had been permanently disabled.
Under a centuries-old code of honor, Hasan's extended family is obligated to revenge the deed or they eternally shame the injured uncle and the entire family. Hasan had asked Ferhat if the milk center could refuse to accept milk from the new customer, minimizing his need to interact with and assist his family's enemy.
But as Mike and Ferhat talked they agreed they should not stop the man from bringing milk, and decided to talk further with Hasan.
After the three met for further discussion, Mike says, "It was a remarkable time of sitting with these two guys—Ferhat and Hasan. On the one hand, I knew I was in way over my head—talking about blood feuds and generational curses. But on the other hand, I knew I wanted to say something. I felt a lot like Moses, thinking, 'God, what can I possibly say?'"
As Mike listened to Hasan, he entered the pain Hasan still feels for his uncle, the desire he has that justice be done. From Hasan’s point of view, revenge is about justice. It makes more sense than forgiveness, which is a sign of weakness.
Mike says, "I told Hasan that God is the one who will carry out justice. Because of Jesus, God has forgiven us, and he asks us to forgive others who have wronged us. He gives us the power to forgive."
Mike encouraged Hasan to stand up to his relatives and encourage the family to forgive, to move on without seeking revenge.
"They'd never agree to that," Hasan countered.
Mike said, "Think of your wife, Saraya,* and your three little ones. Go home tonight, look at them, hug them and consider how they need you. If you take revenge, you may well be saying goodbye to the four who are nearest and dearest to you."
Before the men parted that night, they agreed they would not limit who brings milk to the center, but if the new customer came to the center again, Hasan would be excused from dealing with him. They reiterated that the co-op is committed to working for reconciliation among all peoples and saying no to violence and revenge.
Already the next morning the resolution was put to the test. The new customer showed up. Mike quickly excused Hasan, but to Mike's surprise Hasan responded, "I will stay. I can do this."
As Hasan and Mike worked with the farmer to test and receive the milk, the two local men never spoke to each other. Tension hung heavy in the air.
When the customer left, Hasan told Mike he had surprised himself that he’d been able to stay in the room and interact without initiating revenge.
Mike told him, "This is what God can do, if we ask him."
Later Mike said, "These last few days we've seen small but significant steps in our hopes and prayers to see people here transformed and reconciled to God and others."
The Eastern Mennonite Missions team in the Balkans, in partnership with Virginia Mennonite Missions, owns and operates the milk co-op.
- Our new executive director
- Mutual impact
- Far from home
- Twists and turns
- Five reasons for Mennonite education
- Five ways to help Mennonite education
- Celebrating Sabbath in a busy world
- How affluenza affects the church
- Poem: At either end of the web
News stories, digests and Meno Acontecer
- From classroom, students converse with mission workers in Kosovo and Colombia
- Goshen College will play national anthem before sporting events
- If Obama's right, MLK was wrong
- Compassion more widespread than violence in Haiti
- Haiti updates from Franconia Conference
- MCC responding to Haiti earthquake, welcomes donations
- MCC staff on the ground, waiting for larger relief efforts to begin
- Mennonite work team and MCC staff safe in Haiti
- Mennonites agonize over Bolivian rape victims
- Mennonite Brethren Olympian on coin
- Hyattsville church denied ACC membership
- Peter J. Dyck leaves legacy of service
- Anglo Anabaptist congregations in the cities are growing
- Greensboro massacre survivors confront pain
- SOOPers, staff lend a hand for harvest
- Mother of MVSers says empty nest matured family
- Scholarship for Mennonite high school graduates
- MDS fixes forgotten homes
- Interview with Mennonite World Conference's leader
- Forgiveness in the Balkans
- Living in a world of war and injustice
- ¡Bienvenidos al Meno Acontecer de febrero, 2010!
- Meno Acontecer, para imprimir
- Domingo de la Educación Menonita
- IBA entrena tutores en Miami
- Haití en la mira
- Violaciones de derechos ¡Alerta!
- Una meditación bíblica
- Reflexiones Pastorales - 10ª Parte
- De nuestros lectores y colaboradores ... SUFRIMIENTO PSICOSOMATICO
- Sitios Hispanos Menonitas en el internet - Abril
- Extremists for love and justice
- Continuing education
- Turning the page
- January reviews
- Faith and fiction in Dostoevsky
- We can make music
- Blemished lambs at the altar
- Places of transformation
- Where faith and culture intersect
- How to read the Bible
- Between 'scholarly' and 'personal'
- Newest members will lead us
- Dismayed at listing of names
- Don't waste a crisis
- Great choice for cover