From personal hell to mercy

“Forgiveness is not a destination, it’s a journey.”

So says Rais Bhuiyan,  a renowned peace activist and main character of Anand Giridharadas’s book “The True American.” Both men were on campus on Monday, Oct. 24, to discuss not only their book but also how they hope to improve a country with a past of violence, racism and discrimination. CisternYard News was able to conduct a short interview before their lecture in the Sottile Theater later that evening.

A brief background on the book: Bhuiyan is originally from Bangladesh and emigrated to New York City in the late 1990s to study computer technology. In 2001, he moved to Dallas, Texas and worked at a small gas station to make ends meet. After the September 11 attacks, four months after his move to Texas, tensions began to rise and immigrants were under more and more suspicion. Ten days later, on September 21, Bhuiyan was shot and nearly killed by Mark Stroman, a self-described “American terrorist.”

A decade later, Rais Bhuiyan was suing the state of Texas, trying to save Mark Stroman’s life from the death penalty.

How can anyone recover from near-death, physical agony, mental trauma, heavy medical debts and isolation? How does one turn from that hell, to mercy?  “It didn’t happen that fast,” Bhuiyan responded, as it took nearly a decade for him to recover mentally and physically. “What happened in the mean time is that I went through a healing process, because forgiveness is not a destination, it’s a journey.”

After years of healing, Bhuiyan decided that he was going to help Stroman, forgiveness being a critical part of his religious beliefs as a Muslim. He also believed that Stroman’s execution “wouldn’t solve anything, but if he was given a chance to live behind bars, he might become a better person, and he might be able to contribute to society in a positive way.”

He fought until the last moment before the execution but in the end, Bhuiyan’s request was denied, and Stroman’s death sentence was carried out in 2011. Although he was not successful in saving Stroman, in the end Bhuiyan “felt that [he] did [his] best to save a human life.”

Many thanks to The College Reads program for bringing Rais Bhuiyan and Anand Giridharadas to campus.

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