How to Forgive a Murderer

Anyone living in Sweden has not been able to go untouched by Engla and her tragic story. She is the ten-year-old girl who was recently abducted and killed by a middle aged man in central Sweden. In a newspaper yesterday I read something that moved me to tears. It was an open letter from Engla’s family. Here’s a copy of it:

“Vi vill tacka för den enorma uppslutningen stöd och engagemang från alla som varit vid vår sida under sökande och i vår sorg, som blivit allas våran sorg.
Engla var en tjej som spred ljus och glädje.
Engla har alltid vetat att hon skulle bli något speciellt, nu vet vi att hon blev en ljusbärare som förenar våra hjärtan över hela världen. Vi känner tillsammans och påverkas av varandra. Vi förstår att vi är ett.
Snälla ta hand om varandra och var varlig mot vår jord.
Vi får frågor om vad vi känner för 42-åringen – Folk kan bara gå till sig själva och känna, så förstår de vad vi känner. Att han har erkänt gör att vi kan släppa oron för att Engla fortfarande far illa någonstans.
Vårt liv kommer aldrig att bli sig likt men vi kommer att kämpa för att hitta en vardag för oss och våra barn, där vi vill hitta ett sätt att bära Englas ljus vidare till något stort och positivt för alla.
Frid och kärlek
Carina, Torbjörn, barnen”

This 42-year-old murderer is the most despised person in Sweden at the moment. Anyone who’s had the chance to say anything about him has used words of hatred and disgust. Now Engla’s family had the opportunity to speak, and if any had the right to feel hatred it would be this family, of course. But in their words to us, they choose another path, regardless of the crushing heartache they must be experiencing, caused by this man; they choose the path of “peace and love”.

Although they do not explicitly say they forgive their daughter’s killer, they want to tell us that light and love is a better way than ill-feeling and hatred. They don’t place much focus on the murderer, but rather what we all – and not just their family – can bring with us into the future that will help make this world a better place.

There has been a kind of an Engla fever in the media. Everyone is writing and talking about it, ever since she disappeared; the business of finding Engla – and now grieving for her – has become everyone’s business. The whole nation is united in heart and purpose in way that is quite unusual to see. I feel it almost dreadful to say, but her death has brought so many others to life. And this is actually what I think is the core message from her family. I quote in part:

“Engla always knew that she was going to be something special, and now we know that she became a light-bearer that united our hearts all over the world… We understand that we are one…. Our life will never be the same but we will strive to return to everyday life… where we will find a way to carry the light of Engla onward to something great and positive for us all.”

I think this viewpoint is commendable beyond words. What a great example for us all, turning this tragedy into something hopeful for our society. I can only hope that I would have the same strength in that situation; for many of us it would be hard. But wherever we are in life, we could learn from this family, that hate and revenge is not the answer; that it will in truth only hurt us more than whichever offender we direct our anger at. Rather, we could push forward in a positive spirit, putting away the gloom of hate, and like Engla’s family carry a warm light with us instead.

I wish God’s choicest blessings for the Engla, now in her heaven, and for her sweet family.

13 replies »

  1. When I first read of Engla’s disappearance in the news, and later heard of her fate, I felt truly saddened. But at least it seems as though Engla’s murderer has been apprehended – so for the time being, he cannot harm any other young children. I’m sure there would be many cases though, where such murders remain unsolved.

    As someone mentioned earlier – this sort of thing seems to be occuring more frequently these days – or at least, one hears more often of these things happening. Does this mean that the overall quality of our world and the people who inhabit it are slowly deteriorating with the passage of time? Or are the numbers of these crimes still roughly in proportion to our population, as it increases? I do not know. But I do know that if I were in the same position as Engla’s family, I’m not sure whether I could approach it in such a positive manner as they seem to. One never knows how one might react, until one has been in that same situation.

    I will never forget something that I experienced as a young girl. In the small town where I grew up (population under 100,000), in 1970, two young sisters aged 5 and 7 (“The Mackay Sisters”) were abducted as they waited at the bus stop for their bus to take them to school one morning. They were two very beautiful/cute young girls. Two days later, their abused and battered bodies were found in desolate bushland 25 kilometres south of the city. A couple of days later, I was riding my bicycle home from school when, whilst stopped at an intersection I came upon a rather lengthy funeral cortege. I didn’t give the matter much thought until the hearse drove past me and I saw the two small coffins in the back. Then I realised whose funeral it must have been. I almost broke down and cried, and had to stop a few times on the way home to regain my composure.

    That vivid memory has stayed with me all these years. In this case, the murders remained unsolved for many years, until just a few years ago. In 1998 a man was arrested who was believed to be responsible for those murders (and perhaps also some other child murders and cases of child abuse). His case came to trial in 2000, but in 2001 the legal system finally determined that because of his age and claimed ill-health, he was not fit to stand trial, and all charges against him were dropped. At the time of the court case, the Mackay sisters’ parents were interviewed, and were quoted as saying – “We don’t want revenge, just justice”. But in this case, to many people, it seems as though justice was never really done. How heartbreaking this must have been for the girls’ parents.

    In 2002, the alleged murderer died – hopefully before he was able to cause harm to any other young children. It is my most fervent hope that in the case of young Engla’s murderer, justice is done, and the perpetrator is placed somewhere where he can never again do this to another child.

  2. Hi Linda,

    You are so right!
    Actually the comment I wrote earlier, were my “first angry thoughts”. I didn’t think further.
    As Louis also said : you said it better than anyone can!
    This is a wise lesson! Thank you for showing me.

    Big hug,

  3. Linda, you said it better than I could have. Thanks. I think for all of us, this would be a really, really hard situation to be in, if we we’re in Engla’s parents shoes. What we would feel exactly… well, we could only guess. All I wanted to say is that I feel such admiration for their example; with just a few WORDS (can you imagine) have they made a huge impact on other people, some of which really needed to hear their words – just to have the STRENGTH to move on. I have no idea whether or not they have literally “forgiven” the killer. But there are many ways to forgive I think. What they have done here is one way: choosing not to wallow in hatred, and leaving the judgment of the oppressor to someone else (The authorities or God).
    Wish I could write more about it, but I am about to miss a flight if I don’t run now…

  4. Belle

    Hi, I just wanted to make another comment, just to clarify something I wrote earlier. I am not at all defending the killer. The tragedy here is definitely Engla, being denied the opportunity of her life, and her family who had to experience the loss of their daughter and sister. Yet it seems to me that the murderers life has been a waste as well, and I also find that sad. He must be a seriously disturbed person, and he should obviously have received some help at a much earlier stage.

    I do not in any way understand how her family has found the strength to write this letter. But I notice their focus is on her – Engla – not him, and that might be the answer or at least part of it. Obviously they are searching for a way to survive, by holding on to a beautiful image of their daughter, and the thought that her short life came to mean something to the world.

    You’re not hard or heartless. I’m pretty sure most of us feel the same way, thinking of our own little ones who means the world to us.
    But in our own lives – hopefully we will never have to experience tragedy like this – I still think we have a lot to learn from Englas family. As others also have mentioned, hate does most harm upon the person who carries it. Instead we should search within ourselves for the love and light needed to stop the hatred.
    In that process we will also be healing ourselves.

    Linda NH

  5. Hi Everyone,

    This story is so sad…and it happens so much nowadays. Every country has its serial killer, or childmolesters…but why??? Why can an adult do such a thing to a child??
    I have a lot of admiration for the family of Engla (allthough I don’t understand every word of Swedish text)…But I’m very sorry to say, I would not be able to write such a letter.
    I’m a very kind person and full of forgiveness…But I would never forgive the murderer of my children. Sorry if people consider my hard or heartless, but there is a limit! After the case “Dutroux” here in Belgium, I considered a lot of options if someone would do that to my child. And that person better comes not in my neighbourhood for the first 20 years.
    But my prayers now go to Engla. If you think what the child must have felt those moments.
    I’m not angry with God for this…but let’s say, I’m very disappointed he let that happen.
    Sorry if my honesty hurts some peoples feelings, but I’m a bad liar.


  6. Thank you, Yvonne, for sharing your story – and your wisdom. I can’t begin to say how sorry I am because of what you’ve been through. But I am happy to read that you are finding some answers that can help you in life. I like what you wrote:

    “…what a burden it had been for me to hate… what a loss all my years of hating turned out to be and I can see how it has affected the people I love the most; my children.”

    I would be pleased to read your book. How can I get it?

    God bless!

  7. These your words are extremely true. I was abducted and molested as a child. An important year of my childhood is lost because of that. After I felt hate and despice, not only for the child physician who did this to me when I was his patient, no, most of all I hated myself and looked upon myself as no good, worthless and dirty. Now I know that those feelings are shared by others who share the same experience, but during all those years of silence I thought I was alone. The silence was imposed on me by the grown ups around me, they doubted my story, told me to forget about it and to look forwards instead, which is very hard for a child after a severe trauma, suffering a post traumatic stress disorder and in need of therapy and treatment.
    Starting the process of writing my book Trasdocka (Ordfront 2006) I decided to stop hating and instead try to feel grateful. I was surprised to see how easy it was to control my thoughts. My decision only made me manage to leave all the hatred behind. It became a great relief to me. I started to look upon life with new eyes, so to say. I did not understand until afterwards what a burden it had been for me to hate. Now I can look back and see what a loss all my years of hating turned out to be and I can see how it has affected the people I love the most; my children. Writing my book was a big step forwards in the still on going process to restore myself after the trauma. I called my book Trasdocka (= Rag Doll) because I felt as if I had been tossed around and played with and finally threwn away like an old rag doll. A motto for my book was “Sanningen ska göra er fria” (Truth will liberate you) and indeed it does.
    The abduction and death of Engla arose many feelings in me and other previous victims, because the biggest fear you have as a victim to a pedophile is to be murdered. I wish there were words to describe those feelings, but words are not enough.
    Not only the message of love is the outcome of Engla´s tragic death. Also the tabooed subject child molestation is on the agenda now. That is important because silence around this makes it easier for child molestators and harder for children that become their victims. Thank you for bringing it up and for spreading the knowledge.
    If you want to know more about results and permanent damages of an abduction/sexual molestation of a child, my book is available in pocket now.

  8. This is such an amazing story. So tragic yet somewhat beautiful, in all it’s sadness, how her family has managed to focus on light and love rather than hatred. Engla, the bearer of light, have you ever heard anything like it. There is no doubt many of us has something to learn from their example.

    But I also feel sad on behalf of the offender. Once he was born into this life as an innocent little baby, his future lying ahead – what happened to him along the way? Why didn’t anyone see this coming? As I understand it there has been many signs for us to see. Someone should have seen him, he should have been helped.

    Although it may be hard to understand, I believe everything happens for a reason. In this case, Englas family has managed to bring a little more peace, love and light into the world through her death. May they all be blessed by the great light and love of God. Engla, her amazing family – but also that other person that never managed to make something good of his life, perhaps he needs it the most.

    Linda NH

  9. My heart goes out to this family in their hour of need. I add my prayers to the many others that are being offered for them.

    Thank you for sharing this with us – for showing us another way – the way of the Light.

  10. The story of Engla reach Denmark as well. It’s so sad that anyone can do that, I really feel for her family and friends.

    Just the other day a little 5 year old chinese boy – Oliver – was dramatically taken from his mother at his kindergarden. He disappered for 26 hours, but luckily the police found him safe and yesterday he was reunited with his parents.
    A smiling comment from the little boys mother was “We are happy now”.
    No more words needed to be said, they were just happy to see their son again. Engla’s parents were not that lucky – sadly.


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