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Shooting Victims Tout "Love Your Enemies"

The days and weeks following 9/11 were tenuous times for Americans, especially for people like Ray and his family.  His work with the Christian humanitarian organization, World Vision, had brought them to Mauritania, an Islamic Republic on the west coast of Africa.   

Ray remembers, “We were the largest humanitarian organization working with the government to fight poverty in the country.  I knew there was some pockets of extremism in the country that were not happy with-with our presence. There was rocks thrown at our cars. And the government assigned guards at our home, at our office, around my daughter’s school. So it was-it was a very tense time.”

After 5 weeks, security measures were lightened as tensions eased.  Ray decided to take his daughter Hannah to a nearby beach.  He’d gotten out to lock the wheels into 4-wheel drive, when an Arab man walked up and greeted him.

Ray says, “He asked me if I was an American. Which didn’t alarm me at the moment. I said yes, I am. And then he said, well thank you, and he went on his way. He took about 3 paces, turned around and called to me. And when I stood up, he had a 9 mm pistol aimed-aimed at my chest. And of course, as a father, all of my thoughts were about ‘how do I protect Hannah?’  I was hoping if he got me, maybe he’d leave her alone.”

Hannah remembers, “I started screaming ‘Daddy, that man has a gun! He has a gun!’  

As Ray scrambled to get in the vehicle, the man pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired.

Ray says, “It went click-click-click.  And he took the gun and he tapped it twice and took aim again.  But with Hannah’s screaming, he took the gun’s aim off of me and aimed at Hannah.”

Hannah remembers, “My dad, he threw himself up against the window to block the man’s view of me. And as he did that, that bullet went off.”

Ray says, “The bullet came through my right arm. Glass went everywhere, it went into our eyes, under our skin.”

Ray spun off as the man fired into the rear window.  They made it to safety, but something was wrong.

Hannah recalls, “I felt out of breath. I felt like something had punched me.”

Ray remembers, “The bullet that had gone through my arm had struck her in the center of her-of her chest. And so my world crumbled. And then she said to me, she said well, ‘Daddy, am I about to die?’  I could only respond in faith. And something just welled up within me and I said ‘Hannah, you’re not going to die.’”

Hannah recalls, “‘I need you to pray.’ And I says, ‘okay daddy, I can do that.’  I just called on the name of Jesus, over and over and over again.

Ray sped towards the nearest clinic, praying desperately for his daughter.

Ray remembers, “I had an argument right there in my prayers.  You know, I said ‘Lord, this is not the way it was supposed to be.’”

Clinic staff tended to Hannah and rushed her in for x-rays.

Ray says, “It turned out that when the bullet had hit her chest, it had bounced off her sternum, slid across her rib cage, and exited in her arm pit. But the bullet had not penetrated her lungs or her heart. And she was going to survive.”

By then, friends had gathered at the clinic to support them.

Ray recounts, “I remember with tears raising my-my hands in the air and saying ‘Lord, thank You. Your-Your promises are true and faithful.’ And I remember a Muslim friend looking at me, he says ‘Yes, your Jesus is faithful.’”

Both were patched up and flown to Paris for medical attention.  Hannah’s mother Helene was finally able to see her daughter.

Helene says, “My first reaction was to go straight to Hannah and to just hold her.  She in fact was sitting up in bed looking very chipper. The Holy Spirit stepped in and protected both of them from those bullets.  Um, I was just so convinced of that from the beginning.”

As they recovered physically, the family tried to make sense of what happened.  

Hannah remembers, “Why did he try to kill my father and myself?”

Ray says, “Someone who represented a people that I had felt called to serve in the name of Christ, would inflict such harm. You know, this man had never given me the opportunity to tell him how much I cared about him and his people. He had just walked out of the sand dunes and-and shot.”

Hannah remembers, “I felt somewhat sorry for him. Like, why did he feel the need to do what he did?”

A few days after the shooting, authorities caught the gunman, Ali Ould Sidi.  Once the family returned to Mauritania, a Muslim friend of Ray’s explained what would likely happen.

Ray remembers, “’This man has shamed his family, his clan. Many, many people are very upset at what he did.’ He said ‘You need to understand that before his case ever comes to trial, he will probably conveniently disappear.’”  

Hannah says, “I was shocked. Like, that-you know, why would that happen? Why does he deserve that? I was angry. I was upset. And it didn’t make sense to me for that to happen.”

The family requested a visit with Ali in prison.  6 months later, they were finally granted a 5-minute visit.

Hannah recalls, “Seeing him was just sort of a relief. Because I saw that he was human too. And he wasn’t a monster; he was just a man.  And he looked really sad.”

Ray says, “He was obviously shocked to see us. And you could tell by the look on his face that he was expecting us to-to accuse him, to bring him-him grief. I turned to Hannah and I said ‘Hannah, do you want to say anything to the prisoner?’  She addressed him directly, and she said ‘Mr. Ali, I have two things that I want to say. First is, I want to know why you tried to kill my daddy.’”

Hannah remembers, “He paused for a while and then said ‘I lost my head.’ I said, ‘Mr. Ali, I hold no bitterness in my heart towards you and I forgive you.’ He froze and he didn’t move for a couple seconds. And when he looked up, you know, we could all see he had tears in his eyes.  And I saw how fragile he was.  And, um, and even then, my heart continued to soften for him.”

Helene says, “It wasn’t easy.  I was still shaking at the time.  I was also hearing God ushering me into getting closer to this man. I just started explaining to him the fact that maybe God was thinking about him, when He protected Ray and Hannah, because He had desires and plans for his life.”

The next day, the family received a hand-written letter from Ali.  

Ray reads the letter, “‘I cannot find the words to describe our meeting today. Although I still feel remorse with regard to the evil I have caused you, words cannot express the depth of my joy in seeing you with your daughter, that little angel, alive and well. Many times I have heard of Christian charity, of Christian kindness and love. When you came to see me, I saw it and experienced it.”  

In accordance with Sharia law, the family’s public forgiveness helped to commute Ali’s sentence, and he was released after 1 year in prison.  They never got to see him again, but for them, the experience confirmed everything they believe about the God they serve.

Hannah explains, “He gives us this ability to forgive and to love that is unnatural. As natural human beings, we can’t –we can’t just do this.”

Ray says, “For God so loved the world He gave His Son. For God so loved Muslims...He gave His Son.”

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