Omar Khadr

Recently the biggest news in Canada is the 10.5 million dollar settlement and apology that is being given to Omar Khadr. You can just imagine the uproar on Facebook of people outraged that ‘Justin Trudeau is giving a convicted terrorist 10.5 million dollars!’.

Ignorant people jump on these headlines and never bother to find out the facts before they start shooting off their mouths. Even more ignorant when their only headlines come from Facebook. Outraged Conservatives rush in to use this opportunity to smear the Liberals.

The story is of a 15 year-old boy who was raised in Canada but taken to Pakistan and Afghanistan by this father who was a doctor. He was there to help and sent his son to help wherever help was needed. Omar did what his father told him to do. To his father, they were his old neighbours, to the government he was helping insurgents.

Omar was sent into the front lines as an interpreter when the compound he was living in was attacked by American forces. He survived the bombing and when the ground troops moved in, he tossed a grenade out in fear. Two soldiers were killed, however, he was not the only one that threw out grenades so no one knows for sure if it was his grenade that killed the soldiers.  He was taken to Guantanamo Bay where he stayed for 10 years being interrogated.

A lawyer in Canada who heard of his plight worked hard to get him transferred to prison in Canada. After years of court battles the only way to get out of Guantanamo was to plead guilty. If he didn’t plead guilty, he could be held indefinitely without a trial. That’s how he became a ‘convicted terrorist’.

I knew this part of the story so I was interested in seeing interviews with him in a show aired by CBC called “Out of the Shadows”.

The story of what this kid/man went through was shocking enough but I was blown away by how well-spoken, compassionate, forgiving and positive he was! There was no hatred or thoughts of revenge: he’d had those thoughts the first years in captivity but later his spirit grew to such heights that he affected the worst, most feared interrogator in Guantanamo. Everyone; inmates, guards, doctors, psychiatrists all knew a great injustice was being done and it could go on and on ‘indefinitely’.

His story reminds me of Viktor Frankl, or Nelson Mandala or (dare I say) Jesus when the Roman soldier offered to carry his cross; people who are held in captivity and so badly treated and yet their spirit thrives. It’s an inspiring story.

What does he want to do the most? He wants to be able to walk down a street and no one knows who he is or cares about him at all. Just blend in and live life. He says his goals are abstract; happiness and joy.

This is such a great reminder of how precious, fragile and wonderful our mundane, ordinary lives are, how important it is to love and forgive others. This is a story everyone should hear.

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