Christian lost his eyesight at age 50 in 2001 due to the actions of a young boy. It was about 11:30 PM on a July evening. Dr. Johannes Christian was on Interstate 70, driving home. As he approached an overpass near Springfield, Ohio, Jacob – one of several boys – hurled a boulder off the bridge. The boulder smashed through the windshield of Dr. Christian’s car, crushing the front part of his skull. His passenger managed to pull the car over to the shoulder safely.
The boulder also had a profound impact on Christian’s family, friends, and communities. “Tyrone, my son, was so angry. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t take Jacob down and beat the hell out of him,” said Christian. Personally, Dr. Christian was angry “at everything: God, the world, the kid who threw the rock…”
It’s true that Christian has learned to cope and adapt to a life without sight: “Shaving!” he said. “I don’t have to shave in front of the mirror. And I can’t drive a car anymore.” But, coping and adapting aside, sometimes the anger still resurfaces: “I don’t know that you’re ever complete with physical and emotional recovery,” he said. “There are moments when I know that I’m blind. I have at least 20 grandchildren whose faces I’ve never seen. Everyone can tell me what my grandchildren look like, but I don’t know what they look like,” said Christian. “They will be here visiting; they will draw a picture and then realize I can’t see their drawing.”
Rev. Dr. Johannes J. Christian found himself at a turning point when he saw how angry his children felt. “It hurt me,” he said. “No matter how justified my anger was, I saw that I needed to turn it around.”
The Forgiveness Path: Had To Begin Within Him. The Pathway to Peace and Unity Begins with Forgiveness.
Dr. Johannes Christian may have lost his eyesight, but he didn’t lose his vision, a simple trifecta of Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Unity. “I want to start the conversation about forgiveness and reconciliation so that people can recognize where they are,” he said. Forgiveness is a selfless act. “The forgiveness act – while it looks like it’s about the perpetrator – it’s actually cathartic for the victim,” said Dr. Christian. “If I forgave,” Christian said, “Our family could learn how to let go. Every time we came together for family prayer, we asked God to bless Jacob.”
Forgiveness isn’t easy. Jacob was actually trying to kill someone. Yes, Jacob just wanted some anonymous somebody dead. Dr. Christian just happened to be in the crossfire of Jacob’s wicked intent. So no, it isn’t fair to say that forgiveness wouldn’t be high on any of your priorities.
The 400-mile journey-on-foot is a challenge for all of us to engage in self-evaluation and acknowledge and understand our own logic — the flaws, Dr. Christian says, that shut others out. “I’m raising the issue that there is a need for forgiveness, unity, and reconciliation,” said Christian. “I hope that you will see that there is a need for forgiveness, in our lives, in our communities, and in our country.”
It’s no secret that our country is divided. But unfortunately, there is so much that we allow to divide us: we use our opinions, judgments, assessments, and evaluations against each other; we cling to issues of race, ethnicity, sexual preference, abortion, wealth, politics, etc. And here is where unwillingness to forgive has got us today. United we stand, divided we fall.
Dr. Christian said, “My want is that all people would stop and think about the things that keep our country from being united. In our personal lives, in our community, and our world.
With the walk from Columbus, Ohio to Washington D.C., Dr. Christian offers a daring new perspective: “Disregard the negativity that divides us. Christian said. “If the rhetoric you hear from someone offends you, come to a peaceful, united front. Step toward Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Unity: “Hear what they are saying, then come to a resolution on how their rhetoric affects you and your community and change the negativity to a peaceful and positive outcome,” said Christian.
Unity is the ultimate goal. More to the point, it begins with where we’re unwilling to push through and move forward with each other. But at the heart of Unity is the question of Forgiveness and Reconciliation. “If we don’t really deal with it,” said Dr. Christian, “We’ll never get to unity; we can’t love somebody equally if we see them as less than.”
For Christian, the 400-mile walk is his way of changing the dialog towards forgiveness, reconciliation, and Unity.
“What I want is this walk to create a platform for the conversation to bring about change, to bring about unity,” he said. “I want to see us truly working with each other to create a positive outcome. We can see each other the way we see ourselves. It has to be reflected both in our words and our actions.” It opens an invitation to set yourself on the pathway to Unity. I want to invite everybody to participate in this journey with me personally.”
Come walk and cheer Dr. Christian on as he covers the last 3 miles to the Statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the heart of Washington D.C. Join Dr. Christian at 10 AM, October 30, 2021, at the Rally for Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Unity. Then, celebrate with Dr. Christian at 6 PM, October 30, 2021, at the Black Tie, Red Carpet *Celebration Banquet. The Banquet will be held at St. Thomas Orthodox Indian Church, at 13505 New Hampshire Ave, Silver Spring MD 20904.
All Covid-19 precautions and protocols, including face coverings, will be observed for your health and safety, as well as the health and safety of those around you.
Dr. Johannes Christian is the Face of Forgiveness Foundation founder, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about victimization and the power of forgiveness while living with a disability.