When soldiers die on battlefields, it is a normal tragedy. However, when they are gunned down by someone in their own army base during peaceful times, it is a tragedy of different magnitude. The army base at Fort Hood, Texas, USA, is the biggest in the world. A graduation ceremony was about to begin there on the afternoon of November 5, 2009. At about same time, an inmate of the same base who is also an army psychiatrist, Major Nidal Malik Hassan, took out his gun and pulled the trigger 100 times at his army colleagues. He succeeded in killing 13 soldiers and seriously wounding thirty-eight. Till date no one knows the motives for this dreadful act by a person supposed to be expert on post-traumatic disorder of soldiers.
The tragedy provoked nation-wide anger, shock, sadness and fear. Two days after the massacre, the inmates of the army base and the neighbouring communities gathered for a prayer and worship service. Army Chaplain Rev. Frank Jackson prayed thus: “Lord, all those around us search for motive, search for meaning, search for something, someone to blame. That is so frustrating. So, Lord, as we pray together, we focus on things we know. And Lord, teach us to love and pray for those who rise up against us and pray for those who do us harm. We pray for Major Nidal Hasan, asking that you do the work that only you can do in his life.”
Worshippers sobbed and embraced throughout this moving prayer service. Such prayers were replicated throughout that horror-stricken town that day. What makes this prayer service special is the ability and willingness of the people and their pastor to forgive the murderer and leave all vengeance to God. It is based on Jesus’ famous prayer from the cross for his murderers: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing”. (Lk 23:34).