“Forgive us our sins, and help us forgive those who’ve sinned against us." ~ Matthew 6:12
Her son's killer stood on a chair blindfolded, his hands tied behind his back and a hangman’s noose around his neck. Hundreds crowded outside the prison in a northern Iranian town to watch the mother, Alinejad, exercise her right to kick the chair out from under him to let him hang.
Her only son Abdollah (18) had been stabbed and killed in a street brawl. He’d known his killer, Balal. The two had played soccer together. Years earlier, Alinejad’s youngest son Amir was killed by a motorcycle that Balal was driving.
Under Sharia Law’s concept of an "an eye for an eye," families of murder victims are often given the final word over whether convicted killers live or die – a legal concept that has drawn sharp criticism by international rights groups. Iran executes more of its own people than any other country except China.
They also have the option to show mercy as an act of charity and a chance to atone for one's sins. But after dreaming of revenge for 7 long years – she wanted Balal dead.
Seconds away from what would have been his final breath, a weeping Balal begged for his life one last time. "Please forgive me," he shouted, "if only for my mom and dad."
An angry Alinejad climbed up on the chair and shouted back. "Did you have mercy on us? Did you show mercy to my son?" she demanded. "You have taken happiness away from us. Why should I have mercy toward you?" Then she slapped him hard across the face.
Balal's fate then took an unexpected turn.
She forgave the convicted killer. Immediately she “felt the rage in my heart vanish and the blood begin flowing through my body again.” Then bursting into tears, she removed the noose from Balal’s neck. By lawful declaration, he’d been pardoned from the death penalty but would still serve the remainder of his prison sentence.
Some in the crowd applauded. All appeared shocked.
Balal's own mother reached across the fence separating the crowd from the execution site, and embraced Alinejad before reaching to kiss her feet – a sign of respect and gratitude.
But Alinejad refused and instead gestured for the woman to stand up. “After all, she was a mother just like me," she recalled.
Weeks later, Alinejad has found a peace lost since her son's death. "Losing two children is like losing parts of your body. All these years, I felt like my body was dead. Now I feel very calm. I'm at peace; vengeance has left my heart."
Alinejad's decision was widely publicized by the semi-official news agency, hoping to encourage more victims' families to consider choosing mercy over retribution.
Almighty Father, I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. Please become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Amen