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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.

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“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)
  1. ATHEISM = RELIGION

    Flying Spaghetti Monster you said, "To make fun of you."

    Wow, did your parents raised you to make fun of others? Or they are also as pathetic as you and just taught you how to make fun of others?

    Better yet, do any of you atheists make fun of your parents and love ones for believing in God too?

    April 13, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Answer

      You freaks deserve the ridicule. Suck it up baby.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:45 am |
    • Oh My

      People do get sick of your trolling, so if you'll notice there are some conversations going on here aside from your tantrums and the deserved responses to them.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • ATHEISM = RELIGION

      Answer – Why are you so angry? 2 atheists has decided to embrace the love of God and it bothers you? Suck up, atheist FOOL, this is the real life God attends for us to have, not the life of an atheist FOOL!!

      April 13, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • ATHEISM = RELIGION

      Oh My – Why do you keep replying, foolish atheist closed minded fool?

      April 13, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Answer

      Oh the premise of a heaven. Do tell.

      Let's hear you freaks describe the premise of your delusions. Go on. Make it an exciting tale for your fantasy-land.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • Answer

      To ridicule an idiot religious tool is a great joy in life.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Jana

      Theists need to be ridiculed. Their antiquated delusions are not acceptable. Retro. Dark Ages. Harmful to everyone. Shackle on the ankle of humankind. Destructive and marginalizing. There are thousands of religions in the world, all created by humans.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • The real Tom

      "Wow, did your parents raised you to make fun of others?"

      No, they raised me to recognize ignorance and to discount idiots who practice it.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
  2. jerrod

    all I know is that he is a better man then me!

    April 13, 2013 at 11:40 am |
  3. OrderOfPhoenix

    Religion has nothing to do with forgiveness.
    It only supports it if human being already was forgiving some degree.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • ATHEISM = RELIGION

      I have never seen an atheists post loving comments on any religious blogs. They constantly blame God and religion for the disasters happening around the world.

      WHERE IS THE FORGIVENESS WITHIN THAT???

      April 13, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Oh My

      "I have never seen an atheists post loving comments on any religious blogs. They constantly blame God"

      Well that's a big bowl of stupid. First, I disagree on the "loving comments" thing, but then "blame God"?? Do you even know what atheism is? Why would someone try to put blame to something they don't think exists? LOL. You're nuts!

      April 13, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Answer

      Religious freaks want atheism to be a religion. Trying every moment to convince themselves that is indeed the truth. Failing all the while.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • ATHEISM = RELIGION

      Oh My – Looks like you've never been around to see how evil minded atheists are when there is an article about disaster, eh? Unless you are a damn fool who loves to agree with EVERYTHING atheists say and do.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • Answer

      Oh my how the freaks want their god.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:48 am |
  4. ATHEISM = RELIGION

    I was talking to a friend of mine, an atheist/pantheist-astrologer, half-breed type, and he said he was appalled at the tone of the evil atheists that spew hatred on every religious article.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • SAM

      You're right. Religion has nothing to do with forgiveness. But, God the Father, has everything to do with forgiveness. We forgive, because He first forgave us.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:43 am |
    • ATHEISM = RELIGION

      SAM – AMEN!!! Without our Father God, we wouldn't know how to forgive. His love dwells within those who knows and understand His forgiveness.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:44 am |
    • Simon

      I agree. I'm agnostic but will defend both views...generally I end up defending religious views and reasoning to hateful and angry atheists.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:47 am |
    • Jana

      Oh there is plenty of negativity around, atheists don't have a corner on that ;-)....the loving, kind, altruistic atheists aren't posting on discussion boards; they're reading to kids, planting trees, teaching classes, cleaning up litter, rescuing dogs and rivers and forests and bad neighborhoods. They're adopting blind/disabled children and building houses for the poor. They're just doing. They're all around you; you just don't realize it.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
  5. michaeledmund

    A great example of both redemption and transformation which can become possible when people walk through their pain and have a willingness to step away from the traditional paradigm of what it means to be victim and perpetrator. Overlooked by many is the liberation of the one who offers forgiveness. No longer having a life which is muted and limited by anger, resentment, and sorrow, they are able to move ahead having learned that oftentimes life's greatest triumphs are born on the heels of adversity and are opened to receive God's abundant grace.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:34 am |
  6. Frums

    This is a great story of Agape.

    Someone please explain to this group of readers why those who have no "belief" in any God would not only read, but comment on a "belief" blog?

    April 13, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • Just Me

      Frum – I have asked the same question. All I can say is that I have seen so many of them on every religious blog blaming God for this and that. They mock God and say he is evil, yet, there is no God, per them.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:34 am |
    • Flying Spaghetti Monster

      To make fun of you.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Brian

      If you live in the U.S., Frums, it's always important to keep track of what religious people are claiming, what they are expressing, in a country where we have separation of church and state.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • Bostontola

      This is the belief blog, not the religion blog. I believe there is no god.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • ATHEISM = RELIGION

      Bostontola – Which makes Atheism a RELIGION.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Answer

      You freaks want to know why such a story is injected with god delusion?

      You freaks care to explain it to yourselves about the real reason of "why"?

      ===It's because you freaks need any article with a god injection perspective to keep you going. A story to go and validate your delusion. A physical, materialistic article so you can say to yourself "wow, just look at how my god functions. It's so real. Then you can ignore it and get right on back to being depressed until the next uplifting moment. Just like on every Sunday you need a pick-me-up from your loser lives.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:42 am |
    • Oh My

      You still obviously don't know what atheism entails, "ATHEISM = RELIGION", otherwise you would not have picked one of the stupidest monikers I've seen on the BB.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:49 am |
  7. Just Me

    I can NEVER bring myself to be an atheist. Not because they don't believe in God, but because of the tone of the evil, s c u m b a g, devil worshiping, demon-possessed atheists that spew hatred here. They can NEVER be happy for others who inspires those who needs inspiration. They are angry all the time and I can't see myself living a life of an atheist because the Love of Christ is too powerful within me to live in such bitterness.

    My comment may sound hateful, but when truth & facts bites, oh well, it is what it is.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Bostontola

      It is not only hateful, but bigoted. If you have a church leader, would you be proud if they saw this statement?

      April 13, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • ATHEISM = RELIGION

      Bostontola – What makes you think that a leader from any church would disagree what is true?

      April 13, 2013 at 11:37 am |
    • Bostontola

      If your church condones hate and bigotry then fine. In this country's tone has the right to be as crass as they like.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:38 am |
    • Oh My

      Boston: "If you have a church leader, would you be proud if they saw this statement?"

      . . much less his English teacher.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:39 am |
    • Oh My

      ATHEISM = RELIGION: "What makes you think that a leader from any church would disagree what is true?"

      LOL – what the hell is that supposed to mean, anyway??

      April 13, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • dave

      atheism has nothing to do with hate or bitterness, especially not satanic worship. your statement shows your own ignorance. atheism is the rejection of any religion or god. if someone worships satan, that is religion, not atheism; also, you cannot believe in "god" without believing in "satan" and vise-versa. I myself am an "atheist", although I dont use that term; however I am a very spiritual person. I just happen to find the idea of a conscious super-being directing the cosmos highly implauasable. I do believe in a higher power, but that higher power is the universe/multiverse itself and its inherent balance. However, if it is shown to me, somehow, that there is a God then my beliefs will change; however unlikely I believe that to be. Most "atheists" are actually closer to agnostics, rational, scientifically minded people who will not believe based on faith but proof; those that arent are generally teenagers trying to rebel and not even doing self-examination and soul-searching. Those, and people who blindly follow religion without examing themselves or their religion are the people I weep for. Ignorance is ignorance whether it be in the mind of a religious follow or a self-proclaimed athiest and ignorance is the problem with America today.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:49 am |
    • The real Tom

      Just Me, you just sound stupid. And jealous.

      Grow up. Just because you believe something doesn't make you special. Just because I don't believe what you do doesn't make me "evil", you moronic dolt.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:37 pm |
  8. Burt Wizeman

    And that my friends is what Jesus does in a life.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:31 am |
    • Just Me

      AMEN.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • Jana

      ew

      April 13, 2013 at 10:35 pm |
  9. Arthur

    What a wonderful story. These two should tour high schools, colleges and houses of worship together telling the story of (a) youthful indiscretion; (b) acceptance of responsibility, and (c) true forgiveness. And since it appears that religion (more aptly a relationship with Jesus Christ) played a major part in both their lives they should gladly and boldly tell that part of the story. The only "bad" thing is that a young man lost his life. But dry bones can live; and good can may out of evil. What a powerful story!

    April 13, 2013 at 11:28 am |
    • maria

      We don't need this two morons in our schools ! shame of both of them one is a killer and the other forgot he murdered his brother! what a sick story! I don't believe in redemption or forgiveness at all! sick sick and sick !

      April 22, 2013 at 6:25 am |
  10. Bill Richardson

    For all of you atheists out there, here is some more of the proof that you scream for!

    April 13, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Just Me

      YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      April 13, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Rill Bichardson

      proof of what? humanity's ability to be good to one another? forgiveness?

      just because colon cites god as inspiration doesn't mean all of a sudden your imaginary friend is real.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • D.M. Rodriguez

      No, it's not. Plenty of people have rehabilitated without the need of religion. Your mind can tell you something a million times and you can believe in it, but that your mind says so is no proof that it is true.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Barbara

      Forgiveness is a human virtue, not an exclusively religious one. The willingness to live without hate, , to let go of bitterness and the need for revenge, and to work for the betterment of all mankind does not require the belief in either a mythical god or an afterlife. It proves nothing.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • Bostontola

      I don't scream for proof. This story is a wonderful example of forgiveness and hopefully redemption. It shows how man is capable of so much more when we work together. These qualities are just as valid in an atheist model as in a religious model. No proof either way. Your standard of proof must be very low.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:33 am |
    • Answer

      LOL.

      "My god did this wonder for you." <<- sure thing, freaks.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • barraganjrs

      I'm sorry, where's the proof? All that is obvious is how angry you are and how you use religion to hit people. I am sure Jesus would be disappointed. Please don't use religion to be mean, it offends Christians (I know) and probably every other kind of religious people.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:36 am |
    • D.M. Rodriguez

      If you stated is true, and this is proof that "god" exists, then we can say that all those children dying of starvation in Africa is definitely proof that "god" does not exist. Great logic, man.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Jana

      HAHAHAHA!!! this is proof that god exists???? hahahaha!!!! Are the massacres in Syria proof too? What about the starving children in sub-Saharan Africa? Is the Internet proof of a deity? Is epilepsy proof? Is Kobe Bryant proof? Is the sun or moon proof? HAHAHAH! You will pick ANYthing as "proof" that some higher power is making decisions. As for Jesus, he was there too when the poor brother was shot. Jesus is everywhere, because those who concoct him place him everywhere and decide that whatever happens it was his loving doing.

      HAHAHAHA!

      April 13, 2013 at 10:38 pm |
  11. Tiffany

    It's AMAZING how people miss the point of the d__n story. Thank you CNN for sharing this story. The POINT is, forgiveness is very much possible. I pray that everyone involved in this story has a prosperous and positive live.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:19 am |
  12. G.Wayne

    I am truly inspired by this story (such as I don't leave comments for anything until now).
    I know I am NOT strong enough to forgive on that level. It's nice to see someone who is.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:16 am |
    • Tiffany

      Amen to that. I don't know if I could do it but it gives me hope to see that someone can.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:20 am |
  13. bo stinks

    People can and do change. This is proof.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  14. rare_earth

    Once I learned to forgive, my quality of life improved immensely.
    Those that still harbor resentment, anger and hatred should hopefully come to the pinnacle of forgiveness at some point in their life. It's well worth the clarity.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  15. Name*Robert

    Sometimes forgiveness is an impractical solution, particularly if the offending person would gladly do you wrong again if given a chance. When all of your reasonable options of getting justice are exhausted and you are faced with a choice of hanging on to anger or retaliating against the offending person, sometimes it becomes nessessary to move on with you life instead. You do do for your own benefit, not because the offending person deserves forgiveness. But hey, sometimes Karma does her part in making these situations right, sometimes.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • Barbara

      Forgiveness is not for the offender. It is for the offended – against. It is the letting-go of, anger, bitterness, hate, all those destructive emotions. It does not matter if the offender changes. It has nothing to do with him. But sometimes forgiveness can change 2 lives, not just one.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:29 am |
  16. desire

    Doesn't it just warm your heart that convicted murderers are allowed to father children behind bars? What a great country we live in.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:09 am |
    • maria

      Oh yeahhhh it warms my heart knowing that our tax dollars are paying for her breeding like a dog and creating more murderers ......

      April 22, 2013 at 6:39 am |
  17. spiritspell

    This is a great story of love and forgivness. Things like this does happen and I'm glad that we get to hear about them through stories like this. It's too often not the case in humanity. I am not a Christian or any other religion but I do believe in a higher power that is intellegent and there is good here if we let it take us there. It is there for all of us I believe and surrender to it, call it God or whatever. In this case they both did.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:06 am |
  18. WOW

    Wow – seems like "Just Me" has gotten off topic yet again. It needs to find itself a good theocracy...

    April 13, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  19. clarke

    It really doesn't matter how they got there, what matters is they did.

    April 13, 2013 at 10:58 am |
    • Brian

      Good point, clarke.

      April 13, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • James22

      I disagree on your first point. It does matter how they got there as people are always asking "where's proof of God?" God reveals himself in many ways and this is one of those ways. To dismiss a beautiful example of God's love is such a shame and shows that you're still blind to God's presence. But I agree with you on the second point Clark that it's wonderful that they got there.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • Barbara

      @James: Your argument is circuler: "God makes people good so the proof that there is a god is that some people are good, because god makes people good". Any logic prof would give that an F. Besides, the whole point of your belief system is that faith needs no proof.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:35 am |
  20. Steve

    Why is the focus on the religious aspect of the story. How is a man in prison allowed to father three children while in prison is the more important debate? Why is that allowed? Who is paying the freight on those kids while dad is in prison?

    April 13, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • desire

      Your tax dollars.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:10 am |
    • Barbara

      The focus is on religion because that was a primary motivation for both men.

      As for why his wife was allowed to bear children, that is a slippery slope. Unless you want to deny conjugal visits and allow prison to destroy the fabric of the family and support system the criminal will need when he is released, thereby increasing the chance that he will return to crime, babies will be conceived – unless you like China's solution. Or maybe forced sterilization. Oh, and btw, you don't know who is supporting those kids. You are making a typically racist assumption that their mom must be a welfare queen.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:40 am |
    • Fiona

      I agree, Steve. Why should a man who cannot fulfill any of his paternal responsibilities be allowed to make kids? Barbara's reply here is laughable - she calls you a racist and uses an offensively racist term in doing so. I guess she is fighting her own base prejudices there. eh? How do you know the mom is black, Barbara? Now who is making assumptions?

      I toured a high-security prison on visiting day, and I saw the little kids all dressed up to visit daddy. They were frisked by the guards, made to walk though a very frightening setting past armed guards. The whole experience was frightening to me as an adult, so imagine what these children go though. Anyone who willingly creates a child who will lead that kind of life is a bad, bad person.

      April 13, 2013 at 11:56 am |
    • maria

      The woman was breeding like a dog ,dnd the killer got college education in jail all payed by your tax dollars and welfare ,this happens only on America! and in top pf that he got only 20 years after he took a life and now for recompensation he has the best buddy ...the brother of the victim ,whaooo this sounds like a soap opera !!

      April 22, 2013 at 6:36 am |
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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.