Richard Nisley

The Sweetest Revenge
History - World Released - Jan 06, 2015

For the past five years Liu Xiaobo (pronounced Lee’oh Shau-bo) has been locked up in a Chinese jail, with six years still to be served. What terrible crime did he commit to warrant a lengthy prison sentence? Calling for an end to China’s one-party rule. In other words, he was arrested and sentenced to prison for requesting the freedom to choose, something we in the West take for granted. It’s his fourth time in jail. In 2010, Liu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” He is only the third person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize while in prison or detention, after Germany’s Carl von Ossietzky (1935) and Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi (1991).

Is Liu filled with hatred for his captors? Not according to a message received in Germany by fellow writer Liao Yiwu: “I am okay. Here in prison, I have continually been able to read and think. In my studies, I have become even more convinced I have no personal enemies.” That Liu holds no animosity toward Communist party officials who imprisoned him is a testament to his final words given at his court sentencing in 2009:

“I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies. Although there is no way I can accept your monitoring, arrests, indictments, and verdicts, I respect your professions and your integrity. . . . Hatred can rot away at a person’s intelligence and conscience. Enemy mentality will poison the spirit of a nation, incite cruel mortal struggles, destroy a society’s tolerance and humanity, and hinder a nation’s progress towards freedom and democracy.”

Liu now joins a list of notable dissidents for democracy in history who were sustained during their detention by embracing their detractors rather than succumbing to hatred for them. One is Nelson Mandela, who, while imprisoned for 27 years, learned the language of his Afrikaner guards and, later after being freed, dined with the white leaders who had him incarcerated. “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies,” Mr. Mandela said.

Liu has studied many protests leaders, from Mohandas Gandhi to Martin Luther King Jr. In his latest message, he asked that the world pay more attention “to other victims who are not well known, or not known at all.”

By not succumbing to hatred from his prison cell, Liu sets a high standard. He has had many sources of inspiration from which to draw, including Jesus. In a 1998 poem, translated by Nick Admussen and published in a book of Liu’s writings entitled “No Enemies, No Hatred,” he wrote about the meaning of Jesus’ life compared with the God of the Old Testament:

“Between the rural manger and God’s cross / a destitute infant / turned a wrathful God into the embodiment of love / continuous repentance and infinite atonement / love / no boundary, no leeway / like the darkness before history.”

Which leads us to a few appropriate and concluding quotes, one of which is from the Old Testament Book of Proverbs: “Hate is always picking a quarrel, but love turneth a blind eye to every fault”; and, by Edwin Markham: “He drew a circle that shut me out—heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win: we drew a circle that took him in”; and, finally, “Forgiveness is the sweetest revenge.”

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