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On Monday morning, October 2, 2006, a gunman entered a one-roomAmish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. In front of twenty-fivehorrified pupils, thirty-two-year-old Charles Roberts ordered theboys and the teacher to leave. After tying the legs of the tenremaining girls, Roberts prepared to shoot them execution with anautomatic rifle and four hundred rounds of ammunition that hebrought for the task. The oldest hostage, a thirteen-year-old,begged Roberts to "shoot me first and let the little ones go."Refusing her offer, he opened fire on all of them, killing five andleaving the others critically wounded. He then shot himself aspolice stormed the building. His motivation? "I'm angry at God fortaking my little daughter," he told the children before themassacre.

The story captured the attention of broadcast and print media inthe United States and around the world. By Tuesday morning somefifty television crews had clogged the small village of NickelMines, staying for five days until the killer and the killed wereburied. The blood was barely dry on the schoolhouse floor whenAmish parents brought words of forgiveness to the family of the onewho had slain their children.

The outside world was incredulous that such forgiveness could beoffered so quickly for such a heinous crime. Of the hundreds ofmedia queries that the authors received about the shooting,questions about forgiveness rose to the top. Forgiveness, in fact,eclipsed the tragic story, trumping the violence and arresting theworld's attention.

Within a week of the murders, Amish forgiveness was a centraltheme in more than 2,400 news stories around the world. TheWashington Post, The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, NBCNightly News, CBS Morning News, Larry King Live, Fox News, Oprah,and dozens of other media outlets heralded the forgiving Amish.From the Khaleej Times (United Arab Emirates) to Australiantelevision, international media were opining on Amish forgiveness.Three weeks after the shooting, "Amish forgiveness" had appeared in2,900 news stories worldwide and on 534,000 web sites.

Fresh from the funerals where they had buried their ownchildren, grieving Amish families accounted for half of theseventy-five people who attended the killer's burial. Roberts'widow was deeply moved by their presence as Amish families greetedher and her three children. The forgiveness went beyond talk andgraveside presence: the Amish also supported a fund for theshooter's family.

AMISH GRACE explores the many questions this story raises aboutthe religious beliefs and habits that led the Amish to forgive soquickly. It looks at the ties between forgiveness and membership ina cloistered communal society and ask if Amish practices parallelor 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 doesit like the Amish." Regardless of the cultural seedbed thatnourished this story, the surprising act of Amish forgiveness begsfor a deeper exploration. How could the Amish do this? What didthis act mean to them? And how might their witness prove useful tothe rest of us?

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Amish Grace
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5 / 5
Forgiveness is powerful.
September 8th, 2013
Great and inspiring book. I also really enjoyed the movie which is what made me want to buy the book.
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