Mother of Amanda Lindhout preaches forgiveness

Lorinda Stewart’s story is one that few parents will ever experience but most fear.

Lorinda Stewart’s story is one that few parents will ever experience but most fear.

Her daughter was kidnapped in a war-torn country and released 460 days later after a large ransom was paid by friends, family and others.

Stewart is the mother of Amanda Lindhout, a former freelance journalist who was kidnapped in Somalia in 2008 and released in Nairobi 15 months later after a ransom was paid by friends, family and others.

“I barely recognized her— the skeletal girl that emerged from the car,” said Stewart.

“She was so weak she needed a wheelchair. She had bald spots where her hair had fallen out from malnutrition… she had bruises on her ankles from where she was forced to wear chains for 15 months. But the hardest thing to bare was the haunted look in her eyes.”

Stewart was instantly filled with a rage and hatred that contradicted everything she believed. The Canmore mother of five plotted revenge on her daughter’s captors.

“I didn’t recognize the person I had become,” said Stewart.

“In that moment I realized how easy it would be to become just like them. I had the capacity to be them. It shocked me and finally woke me up. This is exactly how wars and endless violence are perpetuated. You hurt me. Now I must hurt you.”

Stewart said she realized pursuing revenge would only continue to hurt herself and her family.

Stewart said her daughter returned home carrying the message of forgiveness. Stewart said as any parent knows it is easier to forgive someone who hurt you than it is to forgive someone who has hurt your child.

But Stewart preached forgiveness in her address to the Earthdance Red Deer 2012 crowd at Veteran’s Park on Saturday.

The global Earthdance music and dance festival celebrates peace, love, justice and environmental consciousness in hundreds of communities around the world each year.

“It is no longer enough to cry peace and throw up the peace sign,” said Stewart.

“It is not enough if the only time you preach peace is when everything is going smoothly in your life. Peace is synonymous with forgiveness.

“You cannot have one without the other. Peace is a choice that we make every single time someone offends us. Sometimes that choice will be presented to us 100 times a day. If world peace is what we truly wish for, we must live peace and must teach our children peace.”

Earthdance Red Deer has been observed in the city for seven years.

The focus of the event is a non-denominational Prayer For Peace when people around the world wish for peace at the same time.

“We feel if enough people do it around the world, we can make a difference,” said Jan Underwood, a Earthdance Red Deer committee member. “We should think globally. Every little bit helps with thoughts and deeds and trying to avoid conflict and think of the bigger picture.”

The charities of choice this year were The Global Enrichment Foundation, Lindhout’s charity that supports Somali women, and MAGsparks, a Red Deer and District Museum and Art Gallery program that provides visual art-making opportunities for persons with disabilities and others in the community.