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Last night, while avoiding doing the things I should be doing, I was flicking around youtube and came upon a US television drama based on the life and death of Matthew Shepard; the Matthew Shepard Story (warning this is a pretty disturbing movie). In 1998 Matthew was 21 when he was lured into a remote part of Wyoming, tied to a cattle fence, beaten unconscious, and left to die. He died a few days later in hospital. The movie portrays the events leading up-to the death of Matthew and his parent’s anguish as they have to face the sentancing hearing of one of the boys who killed their son. A boy who showed no mercy to Matthew begged Matthew’s parents to show him mercy and not request the death penalty. The movie, as I pre-warned is disturbing, not only for it’s immediate content but also because it reveals the dark side of humanity which enables such a crime to occur.

Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, attitudes, religious affiliation, you have to ask how can humanity be so cruel to one of it’s own kind. The movie shows how powerful hate and prejudice can be, but it also shows how true compassion can be learnt, even amidst great heartache and loss.

I find myself still processing this movie. I remember hearing of the death of Matthew back in 98. Though I don’t think I took much to heart about it. Though seeing this movie the senseless violence that exists in the world, all too iconic in events like the killing of Matthew, the killings of Port Arthur, the shootings at Columbine, the tragedy of 9/11 (the list could go on), seems to have snuck in my cynical exterior and left me wondering – will we survive ourselves. 

I know some call it a crutch, irrelevant, or antiquated, but I have to say my faith perhaps is the one thing that gets me through these kinds of senseless acts of violence and terror. My faith offers a way of hope. Christ stood, even at the door of death, for tolerance, peace, compassion, mercy, and justice for all. I believe that if we can open our ears, hearts, and minds to really take in the message of Christ that there is hope for the world. The challenge for us all I guess is to discover how we can take in that message and how we can live it out.

Matthew Shepard Foundation          

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