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April 13th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

From anger to forgiveness: Man befriends brother's killer

By Rose Arce, CNN

New York (CNN) - The day Anthony Colon heard his older brother had been gunned down in East Harlem, he began struggling with a rage that would last for years.

The anger wore him down. He missed him desperately.

He hated the three men who had fired 13 bullets into his brother who was unarmed.

“Oh, God, it just - it just put so much hate in my life. I hated everybody. I hated everything. It made me to be a person, like a monster,” said Colon, who considered his brother Wilfredo his only stable family.

“I loved him because he always stood up for me from a little kid. He would not even allow me to fight. He would stand up for me, whatever happened, because he always saw that goodness in me.”

But as the years passed the fog of anger began to lift.

He married. Had two children. He welcomed religion into his life.

And, he was overwhelmed by a desire to find reconciliation with his brother’s killer.

“I just wanted it to be OK,” he said.

Then one summer day, a chance encounter while visiting a friend at the Eastern Correctional Facility in Ulster County, New York, changed his life.

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He looked across the room and saw Michael Rowe, one of the men who had murdered his brother.

Rowe saw him too and tried to duck down.

“I was expecting that we would be you know, it would be a fight, some type of physical violent altercation ,” said Rowe.

Rowe recalls feeling remorse and shame, unable to forgive himself for murdering another young man – and afraid of retaliation.

Colon walked straight up to him and said: “Brother, I’ve been praying for you. I forgave you. I’ve been praying I would see you again.”

The meeting would transform both men’s lives.

Rowe had married the same girl he was dating when he went to prison. They were able to have three children together during his imprisonment, and he wanted desperately to parent them even as he served a sentence of 20 years to life.

“I figured I would die in prison. Or at least leave there a very old man with grey hair,” he said.

“I still don’t think that I’ll ever truly be able to forgive myself because of the things that I’ve done. Because I take full responsibility for what I did. And I completely, and as best as anyone could, understand the pain that I have caused.

“I think for me, forgiveness will come in doing good works, trying to help others. But as far as forgiving myself I don’t think I will ever get to that place.”

In prison he was befriended by Julio Medina of Exodus Transitional Community, which prepares inmates for their release.

Rowe studied and soon he got an associate’s degree, then a bachelor’s. As he was studying for his master’s degree in Professional Studies, Colon began visiting him regularly.

CNN Living: A killer in the family

“To have that kind of support from the man whose brother he killed, that is remarkable,” said Medina. “Not only does it lift that cloud of shame that he walks with, but more importantly it allows him to have a second chance with the blessings of the victim's brother.”

The day of his graduation, Colon surprised Rowe by coming to put on his robe. He also came to his parole hearing, where Rowe said this to the board deciding his fate:

“Anthony is my hero. I have two sons, and if my sons grow up to be half the man that Anthony Colon is, I will be an incredibly proud father. And I don’t know if I can sum it up or explain any better than that how I feel about Anthony Colon. He has changed my life.”

Colon believes religion has propelled him to forgive Rowe.

“For some reason I felt that he was dealing with all that he was dealing with. Like condemnation. Self-pity. Just like this hovering darkness that was around. I felt that, when people think that’s strange, but it’s just the part of the nature of a person that’s closely connected to God. There’s a connection with God that can allow you to see past what’s in front of you,” he said.

Rowe was released from prison this week after 20 years, a man who has not seen the world since he was barely grown up.

He showed up at one of his children’s elementary schools with cupcakes and gave her the surprise of her life. He saw the home where he will be living with his wife and three children for the first time. And he went to see Anthony Colon, who he will join at Exodus reaching out to young men at risk.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

“God has a purpose for me. God has a purpose for us,” said Rowe, sitting alongside Colon at the offices of Exodus. “Yes, us,” adds Colon smiling.

Meanwhile, Rowe is adjusting to life on the outside.

He is mystified by cell phones and the gentrification of the neighborhood where he fell into drugs and killed a man.

Exodus is helping him cope with routine life skills that seem overwhelming to him like having the power to make daily decisions over what to eat, when to talk, going outside.

Colon is helping him with that too, so he can see a life beyond prison and they can both put an end to 20 years of pain.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Faith • Spirituality

soundoff (734 Responses)
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  5. Tevin Studdard

    Stories like this is what I pray for and love to see. Last summer my cousin Antwyn Golden was murdered and I wrote a song about forgiving his killer as Christ forgave me, it wasn't an easy or overnight process and I turned to other things to fill the empty void but they were unsatisfying and only left me emptier, Christ was truly the only reason that I didn't go crazy, retaliation is never the answer its just continuing the destructive vicious cycle of nothingness and putting another family through the same pain that you experienced and no one wins in that. I firmly believe 2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du3s-n6wnLA

    May 9, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
  6. DL

    Interesting that Science is not set up with a REPLY option. I guess the Law of Thermodynamics is a myth since everything is supposedly getting better versus running down.

    May 7, 2013 at 2:31 am |
  7. Science

    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408165955.htm

    May 6, 2013 at 7:59 am |
  8. John

    It’s the hardest thing to give away
    And the last thing on your mind today
    It always goes to those that don’t deserve

    It’s the opposite of how you feel
    When the pain they caused is just too real
    It takes everything you have just to say the word…

    Forgiveness
    Forgiveness

    It flies in the face of all your pride
    It moves away the mad inside
    It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
    Even when the jury and the judge
    Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
    It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’

    Forgiveness, Forgiveness
    Forgiveness, Forgiveness

    Show me how to love the unlovable
    Show me how to reach the unreachable
    Help me now to do the impossible

    Forgiveness, Forgiveness

    Help me now to do the impossible
    Forgiveness

    It’ll clear the bitterness away
    It can even set a prisoner free
    There is no end to what it’s power can do
    So, let it go and be amazed
    By what you see through eyes of grace
    The prisoner that it really frees is you

    Forgiveness, Forgiveness
    Forgiveness, Forgiveness

    Matthew West- Forgiveness

    May 6, 2013 at 1:55 am |
  9. Dino S.

    Wow what a beautiful and story. I must admit, there are people who have wronged me that I cannot forgive, who have done much less than kill my brother, but I take my hat off to Anthony Colon. He is a better man than me.

    May 6, 2013 at 12:11 am |
    • John

      It’s the hardest thing to give away
      And the last thing on your mind today
      It always goes to those that don’t deserve

      It’s the opposite of how you feel
      When the pain they caused is just too real
      It takes everything you have just to say the word…
      It flies in the face of all your pride
      It moves away the mad inside
      It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
      Even when the jury and the judge
      Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
      It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’

      It’ll clear the bitterness away
      It can even set a prisoner free
      There is no end to what it’s power can do
      So, let it go and be amazed
      By what you see through eyes of grace
      The prisoner that it really frees is you

      Forgiveness...

      May 6, 2013 at 2:00 am |
  10. Bob

    Its a great story of forgiveness. Reminds me of the type of things of which Jesus often spoke. We all need forgiveness, from one another and to one another, but most of all we need to be forgiven by God for our sins against Him. We need to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord, then we will know the greatest fogiveness of all. May you come to know this awesome joy of His forgivness. God Bless

    May 4, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
    • aldewacs2

      "We all need forgiveness, ... but most of all we need to be forgiven by God for our sins against Him. "
      ____

      We **don't** all need forgiveness. Only those that have misbehaved would benefit. If you have knowingly done something wrong against someone else, it would be decent to try to correct your mistake in whatever way you can. Asking for forgiveness is best done after reparations are made. I guess that includes your "sins" because you seem to feel you've done something "sinful". But that's just you – I for one do not believe that I need to grovel at the imaginary feet of an imaginary guy for imaginary bad behavior perpetrated by myself or my great-great-gr......eat-grandfather.

      However you should feel free to grovel to your heart's content, and I hope you feel better because of it.

      BTW asking for forgiveness without having behaved badly smells of masochism.

      May 4, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
    • Science

      Glad you can read BOB !!!

      Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

      Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

      Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
      bears his name as the “God particle.”

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/08/atheist-prof-peter-higgs-stop-calling-higgs-bosen-the-god-particle/

      May 5, 2013 at 5:22 am |
    • oneputs

      I read this story and was amazed at the ability to forgive!
      But, how many men in jail father sons that taxpayers get to support. That was also an amazing part of this story that may be overlooked.

      May 5, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • B.A. Worldchanger

      1 John 1:5-10
      This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

      May 7, 2013 at 6:30 pm |
  11. aldewacs2

    "From anger to forgiveness: Man befriends brother's killer".
    _____

    To befiend that guy seems to me to be quite a feat of mental gymnastics, but ... more power to him.
    The fact is that if, after the 'mourning' period, you allow hatred and venom to fill your life, you are wasting your own life as well as your brother's. The killer might not even be remotely aware that you are out there foaming at the mouth – so the loser is the one who hates. And while the killer may not be the 'winner', your hatred of him is giving him power over you.

    What I'm saying is this: forgiving (not "forgetting") is something you do for yourself.

    Forgiving does not mean that you approve of the killer's actions – it just means that you have stopped agonizing over it.
    If you tell the killer you forgive him, he loses any power over you. If he has any mental capacity, he is the one that should understand that the 'forgiveness' you extend is an act of pity on his dark personality. In effect you move the monkey of despair from your shoulders, to HIS.

    Hence, forgiveness is the ultimate revenge against the killer. No gods required, either.

    May 4, 2013 at 11:38 am |
  12. Anna

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    May 3, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Science

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      Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

      The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

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      Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408165955.htm

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      Good stuff !

      The fact...............the earth is to old for this nonsemse ! Time to EVOLVE !

      Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

      Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424132705.htm

      For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

      Where do morals come from?

      By Kelly Murray, CNN

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/

      Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

      Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

      Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
      bears his name as the “God particle.”

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/08/atheist-prof-peter-higgs-stop-calling-higgs-bosen-the-god-particle/

      Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
      Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/28/pope-praises-science-but-insists-god-created-world/

      Science

      Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
      By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/17/heaven-is-a-fairy-story-scientist-stephen-hawking-says/

      April 7th, 2012

      08:32 PM ET

      The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth

      http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/07/the-jesus-debate-man-vs-myth/comment-page-137/#comment-2281915

      Make sure to read comments

      April 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |

      Breaking News

      NASA: Three planets found are some of best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our solar system.

      http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/18/us/planet-discovery/index.html

      NASA: Mars could have supported life

      Star Dust we are

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWdU_px9ApE&w=640&h=390]

      Peace

      Holy Hallucinations 35

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XTCRdC8Dlo&w=640&h=390]

      May 4, 2013 at 4:53 am |
  13. ATR

    It takes alot of strength to do that. I just pray I am never out in the position to have to forgive like that but if I am. I pray for the strength to do so. My hat is off to him.

    May 3, 2013 at 2:55 pm |
    • simba

      you said it well, i have nothing to add

      May 3, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
  14. mike

    GOD IS THE GREATEST

    May 3, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • aldewacs2

      ... the greatest WHAT? Please be more specific when you accuse.

      May 4, 2013 at 9:32 pm |
  15. JLin

    Wow – these comments are full of CRAZY people!?! Really, shocking.

    May 3, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Cnn troll

      Stick around a while, you haven't seen anything yet.

      May 3, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.