I met a gentleman named Azim Khamisa in the early 2000's at a conference in Los Angeles, California. Azim was one of the program presenters when I first heard his story. Mr. Khamisa shared about his son, Tariq, who was delivering pizza in San Diego when he was shot and killed by a fourteen-year-old gang member named Tony Hicks. Tony was acting under the order of one of the older leaders of the gang. Azim revealed that his son was a great soul who was wise, charismatic, and planned to marry his beautiful fiancé.
The death of his son was a devastating experience for Azim. I recall him saying, "For months it took all of my will power to climb out of bed in the morning." Eventually, as Azim reflected more and more about what happened, he realized the tragedy was about “victims at both ends of the gun." One being Tariq, and the other, fourteen-year-old Tony. At that moment, Azim felt he needed to take his share of the responsibility to transform the experience that led to the death of his son. So Azim began his journey of forgiveness.
Azim first forgave Tony Hicks and his family. In the process, he formed a friendship with Tony's grandfather and guardian, Ples Felix. Ples and Azim allied and started the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, whose mission was not only to honor Tariq but also to "stop kids from killing kids." The two allies began to give talks to schools where they taught elementary, middle, and high school students about the realities of revenge and the importance of making the right choices in life. What began as the dream of a heartbroken father eventually grew into an organization that offered violence prevention curricula and mentoring services to over 20,000 students every year.
Azim Khamisa transformed his grief into a powerful commitment to change, and demonstrated how forgiveness could be a window of opportunity for personal and societal transformation. I thought about how Azim's example of how to transform a tragic experience into something personally and collectively beneficial, and how it can apply to the world-wide pandemic the planet is now going through. If we are to begin anew, soar to new heights, individually and as a planet, we must purify our field of awareness.
As I have reflected on my experience with the pandemic, I have found myself looking for someone to blame for what I have perceived, at least in the United States, as a situation that did not have to get out of hand. People in power were alerted and warned, and little or no action was taken until the virus started to spread rapidly. Some prominent people called the virus warnings a hoax. I’m thinking, “Somebody’s gotta pay!" And I realize now that I was creating useless suffering for myself by harboring negative energy and forgetting I'm carrying the baggage of my perception. By taking on that baggage, I am not only stopping my growth, I am also a cog in the wheel for society's transformation and paradigm shift.
While it is essential to hold folks accountable for their actions (or inactions), it does no good to harbor negative energy. To do so obscures us from seeing the positive opportunities that can come out of this crisis, including re-examining our values so we can see and discern what is truly important in life. Forgiveness can help us get there. Jesus, Buddha, and all the great avatars and spiritual teachers put such a great deal of emphasis on forgiveness. In turn, unforgivingness does not work the way we intend. Most people think the person or persons blamed will suffer. However, no one suffers like the one doing the blaming. Moreover, such energy blocks us from seeing the opportunities that lie before us.
Forgiveness helps purify our consciousness so that we see and become receptive to the plan Spirit has for us and gives us the ability to participate in it actively. Forgiveness opens up the window of opportunities for that to happen. Azim Khamisa showed us how to make that happen.
Peace and blessings,