Big World Small Boat

Private Diary of A Priest. OK, so we're not all angels...Everyone needs a place to get things off their chest! And yes, I do talk to God about it all! Even He has a sense of humour! Want proof? Well, he made me, didn't He? Oh, one last thought-If you don't like what I've written, please keep in mind - it's MY diary. Go write your own!

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Location: England, United Kingdom

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When Violence Touches Your Own

I had no words to describe the horror I saw when I was called to an incident by the local police. It would be absured to say I'm ignorant to the fact that violence can happen anywhere. But your mind refuses to accept that it can happen to your own children.

My son, Willem, was heading home for dinner. He had dutifully phoned to tell me where he was, and when he would be home. But it was less than fifteen minutes later that the police phoned to ask me to come to 'an incident.' It never would have been in my mind that it was my own son who had been the victim.

According to the multitude of witnesses, Willem was violently assaulted by a group of thugs, with somewhere between eight and fifteen of them stomping on him and kicking him in the face and chest. Willem's crime? He was too short for the liking of one of the assailants.

Multiple fractures, a ripped septum, damage to the optic nerve, fracture of the skull, fluid on the brain - all of these against an inherently polite and docile lad, who is liked by everyone.

Just after the assault, I was surprised by remarks from several well-meaning individuals, who offered to 'sort out' the assailants as a ‘favour’ to me. Comments along the lines of 'I hope they find them and string them up,' were the most common and there were a few that were a bit more sinister and succinct. As a priest, however, I don't agree, but I nonetheless nodded back in acknowledgement. The words expressed are sincere voices of an anger that we can't deny. It's a natural human emotion to a dreadful event.

One gentleman actually gently chastised me for comments I made on the BBC about forgiving the people who committed the crime. He suggested that we should all embrace the philosophy of 'an eye for an eye.'

It's all too easy to over sentimentalise the act of forgiveness. It doesn't mean we're forced to have warm and affectionate feelings for those who have harmed us. Forgiving allows us to put the event behind us, to return our lives to normality, and begin to live again without fear. It allows us to place our faith in our judicial system, that with the weight of evidence, the assailants will indeed be held accountable.

And perhaps most of all, it prevents us from perpetuating the cycle of responding to one outrage by repeating another. Otherwise, we'd only end up being reflections of the ones who committed the crime.

It has indeed been a difficult journey for my son. Equally, my daughter Mary, has suffered. But it is the strength of family, faith, and hope that will get us through.

Postscript: Shortly following Willem’s assault, it was discovered that several of the thugs made a ‘rap’ song, celebrating what they had done to Willem and published it on one of the Social Networking websites. Thanks to the efforts of the BBC, the publisher’s account was closed and the song removed. The matter was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.


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Blogger Seeker said...

I sympathise with you so much, especially as my own son was brutally mugged and had his jaw broken while drawing money from a cash machine 3 days before Christmas 2002. My prayers are with your son and all your family.

Blogger Father Bill Haymaker said...

Thank you for your comforting words Seeker. I'm truly saddened to hear about your son.

So much has happened in regards to this assault. I've only learned today that the assailants, after their court sentencing, have created a 'rap' song and published it on a website, where they are proud of what they did.

Most frightening of all is the second verse, where one boy gloats over his mother's distress as she confronts him with the front page of the newspaper showing my son's battered and bloody face.

It's a sad image on the decline of family values and a community at large.

I wish you peace

Fr. Bill

Anonymous Chris Papaioannou said...

I just wanted to wish Willem and everyone else in your family the best. Its a tragedy for it to happen to anyone, but upon hearing it had happened to someone I knew, it really hit hard.

My name may ring a bell perhaps, but if not, I was good friends with Willem in St Matthews School when you were in the West Drayton area.

I've lost contact with Willem for a good while now, but both me and Antony to this day still occasionaly mention Willem and suggest trying to drop an email or message somewhere, but I'd failed to make contact until now.

The more I hear about what happened, the more sickened I feel. I can understand it must be hard times for you all so I wish you all the best, and I hope Willem has a good recovery from this.

Other than this recent incident I hope you have all been doing well. The memories of you all from all those years ago are crystal clear. You have such a wonderful family, couldn't meet nicer, more welcoming people.

I must cut this comment short here, as its 3:45am, and I have college in about 4 hours. I spent longer looking for a way to contact you guys than I intended, however it would be good to hear back from you all at some point.

All the best,

Chris Papaioannou

Anonymous Pete Aldin said...

Oh, crap. I'm so sorry this happened to your son. What a world.

Anonymous victoria said...

i have just com across your blog..i hope your son is making a good recovery and will pray for willem and your family.

Blogger montag said...

We honor your actions, as well as pray for your son.

It is rare to see a realization that Faith is how we live, not what we say.
(When we experienced the Amish killings in Pennsylvania last year, we saw the Amish forgive, and in the middle of these events, we saw that Christianity is so rare as to be vanishingly small.)

About your comment to "seeker":
We do not see a decline in Family and Community, rather a Reversal - a sudden and abrupt turn of events.

Anonymous CAG said...

I've just come across your blog and I feel very hurt for you and your family especially your son. I hope he has been blessed with a miraculous recovery. It hurts to see anyone suffering especially kids; when I saw your sons’ photo I feel like a knife was ripped through my stomach. No one is deserving of this heinous torture and pain especially you and your family Father Bill … you are the kindest, helpful and most sensitive to others feelings person I’ve come to know. Please let us know how you son is doing. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. Peace, love and bright blessings always. C.A.G.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We met Willem when he received the young citizens award at the De La War. You must be so very proud of him. Pain is a very personal thing and Willem was so humble about it all. He is blessed in many ways. TR


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