Symposium on ‘Forgiveness’ Focuses on Amish Tragedy

The blood was hardly dry on the bare board floor of the West Nickel Mines School in Bart Township, Lancaster County, Pa., when Amish parents sent words of forgiveness to the family of the killer who had executed their children.

The world was stunned and outraged at the senseless, unprecedented assault on the one-room Amish school that took the lives of five children and wounded five others on Oct. 2, 2006. Forgiveness? So quickly and for such a heinous crime?

Donald Kraybill
Donald Kraybill ’67

A symposium on "forgiveness" with a focus on understanding the Amish response will be held Friday, Oct. 10, 10-11:30 a.m. in Lehman Auditorium.

Two Lancaster area men who spoke on behalf of the Amish community in the aftermath of the tragedy and fielded hundreds of media queries will speak and lead a question and answer period.


Donald B. Kraybill, distinguished professor of sociology at Elizabethtown (PA) College, and Herman Bontrager, president/CEO of Goodville Mutual Casualty Company, will reflect on Amish beliefs that prompted them to forgive, show compassion and respond graciously, despite their deep pain.

Dr. Kraybill has written 20 books, many on Amish life, including The Riddle of Amish Culture (1989/revised 2001).

He is a 1967 Bible and sociology graduate of EMU.

Herman Bontrager
Herman Bontrager ’72

Bontrager, a 1972 alumnus, is secretary-treasurer of the National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom and was instrumental in establishing a fund for victims of the West Nickel Mines shooting.

The program will launch homecoming and parents weekend at EMU.

The Alumni Association will honor Kraybill as "alumnus of the year" and Bontrager will receive the annual "distinguished service" award during a worship service 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 12 in Lehman Auditorium.

The symposium is open to the public free of charge.