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On October 2, 2006, a shooting occurred at the West Nickel Mines School, an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. Gunman Charles Carl Roberts IV took hostages, releasing the teachers, adults and boys. He lined the 10 remaining girls aged 6-13) up in front of the chalkboard, tying them up. Roberts shot the girls execution style, killing five and critically injuring five, before committing suicide. The emphasis on forgiveness and reconciliation in the response of the Amish community was widely discussed in the national media.
On January 12, 2012, Let’s Talk About It will meet at theBowerston Public Library at 10:30am to discuss the book “Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy” by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt and David L. Weaver-Zercher. The book explores the many questions this news story raises about the religious beliefs and habits that led the Amish to forgive so quickly. It looks at the ties between forgiveness and membership in a cloistered communal society and ask if Amish practices parallel or diverge from other religious and secular notions of forgiveness. It will also address the matter of why forgiveness became news. “All the religions teach it,” mused an observer, “but no one does it like the Amish.” Regardless of the cultural seedbed that nourished this story, the surprising act of Amish forgiveness begs for a deeper exploration. How could the Amish do this? What did this act mean to them? And how might their witness prove useful to the rest of us?
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