Finding courage to forgive | Blog


Finding Courage to Forgive | Blog

-Cath Taylor


Buoyant and busy, Rev Albino arrives in his dusty 4WD each morning in time for breakfast of fried banana and strong Timorese coffee. Our days are well planned – home visits tucked away in the mountains and forests of Same (Sar-may); interviews with families who owe their health and lives to the care and health education provided by the local church clinic; time with children who proudly show off hand washing skills with careful dipping and splashing.


Albino, through it all, is patient, compassionate and lively – squatting beside children to explain who we are and why we want their tiny fingerprints as consent for their photographs; stroking the nose of a cherished family buffalo; exchanging banter with the guy who serves us up chili noodles; belting out every word to John Denver’s “Country Road” on the hairpin bends back to Dili.


Behind the red framed glasses, these eyes have seen it all. Albino remembers days as a child hiding in the mountains with his father, when Indonesian forces hunted resistance fighters among the trees. Called to Pastor as a very young man, he sheltered others in his church who passionately believed in independence, and he recalls the night soldiers came to take him away. He feared for his life on many occasions – indeed, felt the muzzle of a gun against his temple – but through it all stayed true to his faith and his people.


With tears in his eyes, Albino says that he wants only to see the people of Timor Leste grow free and strong, and that forgiveness is the way forward. This is forgiveness that requires real grit – most people alive in Timor Leste today bear the very real scars of military occupation in one form or another. Albino certainly does.


Courage, as Albino embodies it, is about facing the truth of suffering and evil rather than hiding from it. It’s also about having the grace to move beyond it.  It’s about being organised, disciplined, compassionate and strong. It’s about maintaining a sense of humour when things go awry. It’s about humility – the strength of knowing that your own place in the world is significant, but small in the grand scheme of things. 


Perhaps more than anything, it’s about continuing to find the presence of God even when absence appears to speak loudly.


What stories and people do you hold to when God seems absent? How do you find courage to face the truth of suffering and evil?