Disarmed by forgiveness

Forbearance helps avoid another Trayvon Martin incident

  • Follow Editorials

The news media duly took note of what happened east of Atlanta April 19. But the world may never notice what happened there this past week.

It should. It’s a lesson for peaceful communities, if not world peace.

And it could have turned out so much worse. Frighteningly

When Angelica and Jean-Joseph Kalonji showed up April 19 to change the locks on the Newton County home that their son Bruno had bought for the family, a neighboring father and son pair held them at gunpoint as suspected burglars.

After hearing noises at the seven-month-vacant foreclosure, neighbors Robert Canoles, 45, and his 18-year-old son, Branden, held the Kalonjis, their arms in the air, at the point of semiautomatic weapons until authorities could arrive after about 10 minutes. The Kalonjis were handcuffed and taken to jail.

Days later, when the horror of the mistake was revealed, it was the Canoleses who were arrested, charged with aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal trespass.

Initially, the elder Canoles was unbowed and defiant,
noting he’d actually been praised by authorities.

The story was all the more noteworthy, and the incident more disturbing, due to the fact that Canoles is white and Kalonji, an immigrant from the Congo, is black.

This easily could have blown up into Trayvon II.

But last Wednesday, the two families held a press conference in which the parties hugged and a contrite Canoles told Kalonji, “We hope to be good neighbors a long time, and we can fish together.”

“I just hope everything will be OK between all of us,” his son added.

For their part, the Kalonjis, to a person, were the epitome of grace and forgiveness.

“I accept in all my heart the apologies,” Mrs. Angelica Kalonji said, adding that the couple is “ready to be the best neighbors now and forever.”

Rejecting universal advice to sue the Canoleses, the Kalonjis’ son Bruno said, plainly, ““We want to show people forgiveness.”

To borrow a fashionable phrase: Mission accomplished.

What a soaring end to a turbulent flight.

Authorities need to take away as many lessons as they can – such as from having cuffed and arrested legitimate homeowners, after a simple phone call to the son might have straightened things out. This also may be an allegory on race and stereotyping. It’s also a cautionary tale to anyone with an itchy trigger finger or paranoia residing just under the skin.

In the end, it’s mostly a story about grace and forgiveness, and how disarming, potent and uplifting they are. And how they can grow into peace, even in
situations that begin so wrong and unfair and potentially violent.

When they do go fishing, the world should pause. And think about doing the same.

Comments (6) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Dr. Craig Spinks.Georgians for Educational Excellence
"Can't we all just get along"

"Can't we all just get along" in a spirit of peace and mutual respect?

FriedFacts 05/08/12 - 05:33 am
The incident gives us hope

The incident gives us hope that civil people can overcome racial strife with respect and common sense. I believe the new home owners realized the neighbors were looking out for their property even if they were wrong and reacted in a reasonable way. Sure the police took them in and that’s no fun, but they knew what the outcome would be. Once they move in, at least they’ll know their house is being watched carefully by their neighbor. Heh. It’s us, black and white decent people, against the other side of humanity. Stick together.

TParty 05/08/12 - 06:43 am
They will be good neighbors

They will be good neighbors AFTER the Canoles get out jail, right? Aggravated assault, false imprisonment and criminal trespass is nothing to dismiss.

Jane18 05/08/12 - 08:15 am
A fishing buddy is the Best

A fishing buddy is the Best buddy in the world!!

howcanweknow 05/08/12 - 08:55 am
Guess Brother Al hasn't heard

Guess Brother Al hasn't heard about this yet. If he does, reckon we'll have marches and protests all around?

If we all demonstrated the grace of the Kalonji's, situations like this would be few and far between.

DMPerryJr 05/08/12 - 09:43 am
Anybody Think The Police Were

Anybody Think The Police Were Wrong?

As the writer said, a simple phone call could have cleared things up. Incidentally, any people from Africa that I have ever met tend to be the most gracious, loving and caring people - and the antithesis of people like Al and Jesse.
God bless the Kalonjis family and I hope they catch a lot of fish with their new neighbors.

Willow Bailey
Willow Bailey 05/08/12 - 09:29 pm
Go Fish.

Go Fish.

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs