The Faces of Forgiveness in the Wake of Terror

December 16, 2020

5 min read

Ten years ago, two Palestinian Arabs lay in prey on a pristine hiking trail in the slopes of the Judean mountains outside Jerusalem. Unlike terrorists who blow up buses, cafes, or attack civilians on the street, these men waited for their victims to come to them, knowing that on the beautiful sunny Shabbat day, people would flock to this well-known area.

Two women, good friends, happened upon the terrorists in hiding, and became their victims. They were bound and gagged. The terrorists plotted in Arabic, though they were armed with knives that were the tools of their premeditated plan. Kay Wilson, a Jewish Israeli tour guide and Kristine Luken, an American Christian, lay helpless. Both were stabbed multiple times. Kristine called out to Jesus. Kay, helpless to aid her friend, tried to be still so the terrorists would think she was dead and leave her.

Kay miraculously survived, Kristine tragically and sadly did not.

Kristine left behind her parents, a brother, and an identical twin sister. Ten years is eons, but for those who knew and loved her, it feels like yesterday. Kristine’s murder still leaves open wounds, grief, questions, and other complicated emotions. As an American Christian, not as many people know about Kristine as about Israeli terror victims. Her family does not have the “benefit” of a community of other families of victims who understand their loss.

The death of a loved one is painful any time. It’s all the more to lose a sister, a woman in the prime of her life. The gruesome and premeditated way in which Kristine’s life was taken is incomprehensible. It’s unimaginable to most to lose a twin sister. Kathleen, however, knows this pain. Kathleen shared her range of emotions regarding an experience we should never know from.

JF: How do you feel about the fact that Palestinian society honors Kristine’s murderers, providing them and their families financial support as national heroes?

“It’s atrocious and abhorrent providing financial support to families of those who perpetrate such evil and call them national heroes. It keeps Palestinians in a cycle of hate, bound in prison of their own making. They will not be able to rise above and be productive with this misplaced erroneous evil mentality. They are misguided – nothing will ever change (for them). There is a better way…by stopping the encouragement and financial rewarding of hateful murder. Forgiveness is the only path to true lasting freedom and healing – by God’s power and our choice.”

JF: In Judaism, one needs to ask for forgiveness, to be repentant, three times if needed, in order to be forgiven. That idea is highlighted in Matthew 18: 15-17. How did you forgive the murderers though they are unrepentant and have not sought forgiveness?

“This is a deep question. Before Kristine’s murder, forgiving someone for murder was unfathomable. Becoming a Christian helped build my foundation to do so. I had to choose to forgive them. I asked God to help me. It is unsettling to know that these men are unrepentant and without remorse. Only God can reach them. Until they open their hearts and pursue Him, they will not be capable of feeling remorse and repentance.”

“I didn’t go to Israel to see the men face to face (at the trial). Perhaps my choice to forgive would have been shaken in their presence. Maybe God knew that being there would do more damage to my soul. I can’t imagine seeing the men who brutally murdered my sister. I don’t know how I would have reacted. Would I have been able to say: ‘What you did was horrific but with God’s power and love I forgive you.’ I pray yes. Does that mean I would not repeatedly struggle and need to forgive them over and over again? No. Does it make my choice and decision to forgive any less real? No. I must choose to forgive just as Stephen did (Acts 7:60) when he was being stoned for his faith in Jesus. Jesus (exemplified forgiveness) while being crucified, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:34) If I don’t follow Jesus’ example, I will be poisoned with the anger of unforgiveness. This does not depend on (the terrorists) asking for my forgiveness. I must forgive by His power so I can be free.”

“Jesus waits with open arms to forgive them if they would turn to him. He waits to fill them with the love they crave and squelch the anger and hatred that binds, poisons, and imprisons them. I pray for their salvation. I have often thought of visiting them in prison to extend my forgiveness. Maybe someday…”

JF: Does the guilty sentence of the Palestinian Arab terrorists provide any comfort or give closure?

“My struggle, anguish, and anger was at God who didn’t intervene to protect Kristine. Finally. I accepted what happened. While I will never understand why God did not intervene, I know He is good. I am grateful the murderers were caught and received life sentences which provides a measure of closure. There is comfort knowing they can no longer hurt anyone else. It’s disconcerting that they can be released as Israel sometimes does goodwill gestures to the Palestinians. That’s crazy, insulting, and hurtful to the families! It condones terror. How can there be any rationale that could ever justify the release of anyone who has murdered anyone in a terrorist act? These men should never be released.”

JF: What particular scriptures give you comfort or understanding of Kristine’s murder?

“I am comforted that I will see her again. (Luke 23:43).”

“God says in Isaiah 55:8-9, ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord.’ He is God and I am not. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t care or love her just that I will never understand this side of heaven.”

Matthew 10:28 says: “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be afraid of Him Who can destroy both our soul and body in hell.” “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?….How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them. Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains

of sand. When I awake I am still with you.” (Psalm 139)

Q: How has Kristine’s murder changed you?

I’m not sure how to describe it. Perhaps there are no words. I just changed. My world changed and will never be the same. An innocence was stolen, and a sense of safety taken from me. I was filled with fear and distrust. It was a personal, violent, evil, and senseless attack. The rage and hatred (the premeditated) attack is unimaginable. I did have anger to them, but my faith in God and what He teaches about forgiveness was my guide. He is a God of forgiveness and I had to forgive these men. I will never be the same person (but) I have scars that God is turning into a testimony of His love and faithfulness.

To remember ten years since this terror attack and murder, the Genesis 123 Foundation will host “Terror, Ten Years After” with Kay Wilson on December 30.  Advance registration is required.

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