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Ordinary Missionary Honored in India for Her Forgiveness

Vishal Mangalwadi, a Christian leader from India, writes movingly of the impact that Gladys Stains had on his nation. Gladys and her husband, Graham, and their sons, had devoted their life to serving lepers in India's eastern state of Orissa. Vishal writes:

Gladys was an ordinary housewife, but she stunned our nation by spontaneously, unpretentiously, humbly, and genuinely forgiving militant Hindus for their atrocities. They had burned alive her husband, Graham, and two little sons on January 23, 1999. In 2005, the government of India honored Gladys with one of our highest civilian honors—Padma Bhushan.
Why should an individual be given a national honor simply for forgiving murderers? To appreciate that forgiveness, remember that India's and Pakistan's births as free nations came with the terrible pain of Hindu-Muslim-Sikh sectarian riots. About ten million were made homeless. One-half to one million people were killed, including Mahatma Gandhi. Fifty years of secular democracy and education could not free us from this destructive chain of violence and revenge. Hindu-Muslim clashes have burned trainloads of innocent passengers, leading to riots that last for weeks. Frequent riots have reduced Indian Muslims to relative poverty and powerlessness. Any successful Muslim businessman is a marked target for the next round of riots. Even sympathetic bankers hesitate to lend to him.
Gladys's simple act of forgiveness became a national phenomenon because it broke this common chain of cause and effect. In city after city, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, and secular leaders gathered to publicly honor Gladys as a saint to emulate. The government of India was simply the last in line to acknowledge that Gladys Stains is an ordinary woman with an extraordinary spirit—possessed of a spirituality that could heal our nation.

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