Holding onto anger and bitterness towards someone who has caused us grief hurts me much more than the person my anger is aimed towards.
I want to tell a true story that is well known in New Zealand. It is about a lady who showed great love and forgiveness to those who caused massive upheaval and pain in her life:
In order to help get this story out to a wider audience, I tell it here in my own words. It is a powerful account that can change lives. There are references at the end of the story if you wish to read more about it.
In 1996, a group of Black Power gang members attacked a rival gang member in Taranaki, New Zealand. It was a brutal attack in which the victim’s face was slashed and several of his fingers were severed with a tomahawk.
The attack occurred outside the house of a family man, Christopher Crean, who’d witnessed the attack as he mowed his lawn.
While others in the neighborhood also saw the attack, only Chris Crean agreed to testify against the attackers and go through the process of providing evidence to the police and the prosecutor.
Against all advice, Crean rejected witness protection. He felt this was ‘his neighborhood’ and did not want to surrender it up to gang members. This decision ultimately proved fatal for him.
In an effort to kill him, Black Power gang members, on the instruction of their vice-president, Brownie Mane, visited Chris’ home three times. The first two times, the planned hit was abandoned. On one of those occasions Crean had answered the door with his two-year-old daughter in his arms, the gunman felt compassion for the child and decided not to shoot.
Hearing this, Brownie Mane remonstrated with the would-be assassin and told him he should have shot Crean and his baby.
When the gang member returned a third time to Chris Crean’s home, Crean answered the door alone and he was shot in the stomach through the front door with a 303 Winchester rifle. He died the next day in hospital.
There was community outrage, and despite confidence among gang leaders that the killing would deter further witnesses, crucial evidence against Brownie and 3 other gang members for Christopher Crean’s murder came from within the gang.
The four Black Power members were convicted of murdering Crean and given mandatory life sentences, Brownie Mane being sentenced to a minimum 17-year non-parole incarceration.
Fast forward 19 years and Brownie Mane was released from prison in 2015. The decision to release him was not taken lightly but Brownie had shown extreme remorse and had turned his life around, becoming a motivational speaker in prison for Maori youth on the pitfalls of joining gangs.
Last year, my friend, Allan Tibby, who has been visiting prisons in New Zealand and speaking with inmates about developing the skills to become better people, met with Brownie Mane and was very touched by the work he is doing with Maori youth and others.
He said that Brownie knows he can never escape his bad deeds and he had expressed that:
“Christopher Crean was an innocent man, and my time spent behind bars was “nothing” compared to the pain I put the Crean family through. There are no amount of apologies I can ever say to compensate this family for what I did. I can never wipe up all the tears that have fallen by this family for their loved one so I will never be seeking forgiveness for what I’ve done. The 19 years I spent in prison may seem like a long time to some. In my view, this 19 years is nothing compared to my victim’s family. Even though it’s nearly been 22 years since this crime happened, I can only imagine that their pain and hurt is still very raw and that it must only feel like yesterday for them that this devastating event took place.”
In June 2017, an open letter of forgiveness to Brownie Mane and the other 3 gang members who were involved in the murder of Christopher was published.
The letter was written by Stephanie Crean, the daughter of Christopher Crean. Yes, the then 2-year-old daughter who was in her father’s arms the day Christopher Crean first answered the door to the gunman.
Here are some excerpts from Stephanie’s letter:
“To all four men and the black power gang that were involved in the murder of my father Christopher Crean, my name is Stephanie Crean and I forgive you for murdering my father.
“I forgive you so that you may have peace and I too. So that our families may have peace, and so that the community may have peace also. So that the nation may have peace, because that is what is right. I believe that with justice comes peace.
“Whether or not you are changed men, I forgive you. . . . . I’m 22 this year, and what life has taught me the most is to love your enemies. I have my own blog that I write stories for people to read and I focus a lot of my stories on forgiveness and love, to love your enemies.
“I know this to be true. No one is perfect, but we are all blood and flesh, skin and bones. We are all human. I also know this, that unforgiveness and hate will not change any circumstance or person. Until people understand that we were put on this earth to love, until then, there will be crime, there will be hurt, there will be war.
“I forgive you all because I want you to start forgiving yourselves, and once again I’m not saying this because what you did was right, but because whatever love you have left I hope you use that love to change yourselves. Change the ending to your story and use that to help change others, because if you don’t, who will stand up in your shoes and tell your story? I hope you use it for good and I hope you use that love to give to your families, because I hope that one day we all understand that love is the only thing that will give us all peace. Because forgiveness is the only thing that is going to set us free and change everything about our life journeys.
“However, whether or not you are changed men, I still forgive you. If you do not seek out the hopes I have for you, I still forgive you.”
There is much more to Stephanie’s letter that you can read and I’ve provided a link to Allan Tibby’s blog about the story at the end of this post.
These days Stephanie endeavors to follow the teachings of Lord Jesus.
Allan informs me that Brownie Mane’s life was greatly impacted by this letter from Stephanie and he feels unworthy of forgiveness. Brownie has now dedicated his life to trying to prevent as many young men as possible from following his previous path and thereby preventing the suffering to other families such as he caused Stephanie and her family.
Stephanie’s message is a message of great hope and of redemption for us all. In spite of being deeply fallen and most unworthy, we can all be recipients of God’s grace and love.
Most of us know the Lord’s prayer and can recite it by heart. But how many of us really meditate on the words of this prayer? Until I heard my spiritual teacher Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda talk about this subject some years ago, I know I never thought about the phrase:
“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us”
In other words can I really expect to ask forgiveness from God and others for my transgressions if I do not forgive those who I feel have wronged me? How can I approach my dear Lord if I hold anger and bitterness in my heart towards others? How can I expect to become a better person? How can I expect to develop a closer relationship with the Supreme? How can I expect to be able to love the Lord thy God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind? I cannot…… unless I first learn forgiveness.
Here is a link to Allan Tibby’s account of this incident which contains further links to the story:
and this is a link to Allan Tibby’s (aka Acharya das) YouTube channel. I highly recommend this channel:
Thanks for reading
Namaste, Charles Robinson aka Chaitanya das