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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

‘Won’t respond to violence with hate’: Woman who lost her family in 26/11 attacks forgives Ajmal Kasab

“I looked at Kasab and realised that he was as old as one of my sons, and I heard Jesus Christ inside my head – “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”,” says Kia.

On November 26, 2008, Alan was on a special trip to Mumbai, with a meditation group called Synchronicity Foundation for Modern Spirituality, along with his 13-year-old daughter Naomi. They were staying at the Oberoi Trident.

Alan and Naomi were at the hotel’s restaurant when armed men stormed in. People hid under the tables, but in vain, because the men shot at whoever they could.

There was bloodbath. Bodies lay motionless. People wailed in pain.

On that fateful day, ten members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic terrorist organisation based in Pakistan, carried out 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai. The attacks, which lasted for four days, killed more than 100 people and wounded over 300.

Alan’s wife and Naomi’s mother, Kia Scherr, was in Florida at that time, visiting her family for Thanksgiving. Late in the afternoon, when it was nighttime in India, Kia got a phone call from the meditation group’s director, who asked her to turn on the TV. He told her that the Oberoi was under attack.

“The next three days were the most restless days I have ever spent,” Kia tells Platocast. “On November 28, around 6 AM, I got a call from the US Consulate in Mumbai. They told me that both Alan and Naomi were killed in the attack.”

Kia was in shock, but she did her best to keep herself steady.

‘I forgive Ajmal Kasab’

“I was sitting in front of the television in the aftermath of the horrific events, when I saw Ajmal Kasab for the first time. He was the lone surviving terrorist, who was captured,” Kia says.

“I looked at Kasab and realised that he was as old as one of my sons, and I heard Jesus Christ inside my head – “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”,” says Kia.

“This was a moment of realisation,” Kia says. “I realised how disconnected this young man and his companions must have been from their own humanity, to have done such a thing, and I felt compassion for them. In my heart, I forgave them,” Kia adds.

Kia believes that forgiveness is not about letting the perpetrators free, because they have to face the consequences of their actions. Instead, forgiveness was a spiritual choice given to her at that moment, and she chose to say ‘yes’.

Alan and Naomi

“I decided that I did not want to respond to hate and violence with more hate. I did not want to hold on to the anger. The only way to do away with darkness is to turn on the light, and the light is the light of love. I am still alive because of the love in my heart. No bullet from any weapon can ever kill love. Love cannot die,” Kia says.

Messages of love

“In the year 2010, I went to Mumbai without any contempt for the city in my heart. Because we were a part of this spiritual organization, Synchronicity, which has a website, a lot of people from across the world got to know about us. After I came to know that Alan and Naomi had been killed, I received messages of love from every corner of this earth, including messages from Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, from people from all over Iran, Pakistan and India,” Kia adds.

There was this one message from Iran, signed by an Arabian family, which read: ‘Islam means love. We send you our love and support. Alan and Naomi – they will live on forever’. 

“The message touched me and I realised how different the world would be if only we could love like extremists instead of taking lives,” Kia says.

Ajmal Kasab was executed by hanging on November 21, 2012. Every year, as 26/11 nears, Kia feels weak, but her power of forgiveness keeps her going.

“If you have faced some tragedy like I have, if you have experienced loss, I understand your anger. It is okay to feel enraged. You must let it come out. Feeling angry is okay, but retaliating and creating a cycle of violence is not. At the end of the day, forgiveness is something you gift yourself so that you don’t have to live with hate,” says Kia.

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