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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

18 June 2014: John Callaghan, Chair of PACT

Is revenge so sweet?

Do you ever get so angry, so offended that you really want to hurt the person who has upset you? I have been working in a local prison leading a course which helps offenders face the harm they have caused. A most wonderful couple visit for one session and tell the men 'revenge is like taking a cup of poison and drinking it, believing that it will harm the person you are angry with'. Ray and Vi Donovan's son Christopher was beaten to death by a gang of teenagers in the year 2001, but after a personal painful journey they forgave the boys and subsequently they have met the three who were convicted and heard how sorry they were and their intention to live lives which addressed the pain they have caused.

I remember one afternoon when Ray had spoken to one of his son's killers and, in floods of tears, the boy had said how sorry he was and Ray amazingly said 'I forgive you'. The change that these few words brought to that boy, his parents, grandparents and all of their friends was unbelievable. On the course, one of the men serving a sentence told us how his brother had been murdered and nothing would stop him taking revenge. Weeks later at the graduation he had confronted his anger and although he had not planned to speak, he realised how his anger would cause even more pain to his parents, his community, his potential victim and the victim's friends and family. He stood and haltingly started to thank Ray and Vi because he now saw, revenge only causes more pain and with tears streaming down his face he let his anger and bitterness go.

The strength and courage to let our anger go, to release the person we hold responsible can bring healing and a future. Ray and Vi have spoken to Government Ministers to help them see that, if we put the victim and their needs at the centre of the justice system, the offender takes proper responsibility and the victim has their needs met. No-one can give Ray and Vi their son back but every person who changes their life because of their story gives them great joy. We imprison each other with our bitterness and hatred but ultimately it will only harm us. Why not turn things around today, step away from revenge and bitterness and find, that when we stop drinking the poison we start to live again.

Find Ray and Vi's story at

This article was submitted for publication in the Petersfield Post on 18 June; it is possible that it was published earlier or may be published later.

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