On October 2, 2006, a thirty-two-year-old gunman entered a one-room Amish school in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. Ordering the boys and other adults to leave, the killer opened fire and shot the 10 remaining girls execution-style, killing five and leaving the others critically wounded. He then shot himself as police stormed the building.
Before the sun had set on that awful October day, members of the Amish community brought words of forgiveness to the family of the one who had slain their children. Those in the outside world were incredulous that forgiveness could be offered so quickly for such a heinous crime. The story of Amish grace eclipsed the story of violence and arrested the world’s attention.
Amish Grace explores the many questions this story raises about the religious beliefs and habits that led the Amish to forgive so quickly. It examines forgiveness embedded in a separatist society and questions if Amish practices parallel or diverge from other religious and secular notions of forgiveness. It also asks why and how forgiveness became international 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 a deeper exploration. How could the Amish forgive so swiftly? What did this act mean to them? And how might their story provide lessons for the rest of us?
Amish Grace has sold over 100,000 copies and has been translated into French, German, Japanese, and Korean (a Chinese translation will be published in 2014). The paperback edition of the book contains an interview with Terri Roberts, the mother of the man responsible for the tragedy at the Nickel Mines school.