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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. Lorrrr

    Dave why would you owe so much? Surely you got a degree that allowed you to make a living?

    April 14, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  2. papasmurf

    I'm an atheist and I love this story. I am a big fan of the whole loving your enemies and turning the other cheek thing. It is a moral philosophy and can be reached using completely secular ethics. No god needed.

    April 14, 2013 at 11:44 am |
  3. Evonix

    Purraisse JESUS!
    Isn't it wonderful how faith solves everything, even the murder of your kin?
    This fable is so inspirational it makes me want to forgive many evildoers in my own life, most notably the dog owners who keep letting their dogs tinkle on my expensive landscaping.

    April 14, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  4. News Poster

    I would never forgive this guy, I would have made it my mission to kill him. He deserves to die.

    April 14, 2013 at 9:56 am |
    • Carlos

      Being a good human being is not easy it take tremendous courage. Being a Christian is about doing the hard thing, hate is easy. John 15:12

      April 14, 2013 at 11:01 am |
    • Lorrrr

      All of that bitterness and hate would make your life miserable. Because, even if you DID kill him, it would not improve your situation.

      April 14, 2013 at 11:51 am |
  5. sparky

    It's very easy to "blame/credit" god for the unexplained.

    April 14, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  6. Science

    A review of the fact no god(s) needed to forgive someone.

    With facts......................... no gods and politicians should know better !

    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

    A wedge !

    April 14, 2013 at 9:30 am |
  7. Dethstrike

    religion aside, it's a nice story to see the power of forgiveness in action. Can you imagine what this world would be like with more forgiveness such as this in it? I think I would like that world a lot better... 😀

    April 14, 2013 at 9:23 am |
    • Carlos

      forgive us our debts,
      as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Luke 11:2-4)
      To answer your question: it would be heaven on earth.

      April 14, 2013 at 11:08 am |
  8. jack333

    thats NYS for ya

    April 14, 2013 at 8:54 am |
  9. Rob

    Convicted murderer allowed to marry and have 3 kids in prison? What are the chances that the mother is on welfare? That's just great.

    April 14, 2013 at 8:39 am |
  10. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 14, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Jiminy Cricket

      Wishing on a star has the same effect

      April 14, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • nope

      @diminy dimwit
      nope

      April 14, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • fyre

      I have to say, I always crack up at your screenname. Thanks for the laugh! Now off to convert my atheist hamsters 🙂

      April 14, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • .

      hamsters are not atheist.

      April 14, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • fyre

      @. – atheism is not healthy for "other living things." I'm assuming he/she means the rest of the animal kingdom. It's such an odd phrasing that I love it!

      April 14, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • lobo

      If the thing you are praying for is already in God's divine plan then your prayer is redundant. If it is not in the divine plan then your prayer is useless. Prayer serves no purpose.

      April 14, 2013 at 9:31 am |
    • snopes says

      nope is false

      April 14, 2013 at 9:41 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      April 15, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • Really?

      "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      That's why the data, has shown that atheists have happier and healthier lives than conservative Christians. Your post is built on a lie

      April 15, 2013 at 11:02 am |
  11. BobT

    Authentic Christianity displaying compassion when the atheists on here just offer trolling and hate. And this man's works prove which philosophy actually lives up to its claims.

    April 14, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Jack

      One person is not proof. You're an example of why people are against religion. You're so full of yourself and how wonderful you are as a Chrsitian, but you're exactly what's wrong with Christians. Judgemental and hypocritical.

      April 14, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • .

      Except it is not just one person jack the events described have been testified to by millions of people over thousands of years.

      April 14, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • fyre

      I'm atheist, but the philosophy this man ascribes to is a rare kind of beautiful Christianity. Most Christians I know are raised to fear a vindictive God and eternal hell, derive pleasure from the thought that God will provide "evildoers" and non-Christians with their comeuppance and use God as a means to acquire material, trivial things (existence of mega-churches, buy my book, this is the only way to salvation, pray to God so that my football team wins). They do not want to help others and look down their noses at others who do not dress and act like them and believe in their own brand of Christianity. If more people ascribed to this man's philosophy in life, the world would be a beautiful place. The new pope is doing some good work too, so I hope people like this become a good example to others.

      April 14, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • Meant2B

      Thank you, Jack for proving Bob's point so vividly.

      April 14, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • SeaMon

      Forgiveness is not Christian. It is only forgiveness. Love, compassion, and other values are not Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Buddhist. They are just values. Humility is a good one too, and we would all be in a better place if we didn't rank our personal labels as better than others.

      April 14, 2013 at 9:39 am |
  12. Kris

    The one thing that got me is that he had the right to get married and have children while he is is prison for murder. But as a lesbian, Iam not allowed to get married just because I want to marry woman. I am amazed he has this right and I don't.

    April 14, 2013 at 5:38 am |
    • Reuben Ahmed

      Totally agree.

      April 14, 2013 at 6:06 am |
    • rolls my eyes

      typical. a lesbian who turns a story around for her own benefit. go somewhere else.

      April 14, 2013 at 7:19 am |
    • SeaMon

      I hear you Kris. Luckily, this sad reality is changing.

      April 14, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Sacmar

      I totally agree. Ridiculous.

      April 14, 2013 at 11:13 am |
    • The Moronic Redneck

      I am going to have to agree with Rolls my eyes.

      April 14, 2013 at 11:55 am |
  13. JCS

    Jesus either heals or makes you totally naive.

    April 14, 2013 at 3:48 am |
  14. Robert Austin

    A story of one man's compassion and another man's redemption. Good things happen in spite of the cynics. Congratulations to both.

    April 14, 2013 at 1:24 am |
  15. Arturo Alvarez

    Its takes great understanding of one's own environment to forgive him.

    April 14, 2013 at 1:12 am |
  16. Dan

    I have always been impressed by the actions of sincere Christians. This guy really lives the teaching. It is sad that there are so many commenters who are caught up in anger and hatred.. I hope something brings peace to their lives.

    April 14, 2013 at 12:53 am |
    • Tre

      Please...people here are not filled with anger. They just recognize that this guy turned to religion to try and find a way to make the murder of his broker "alright" so he would be at peace. There is no way you befriend the guy, there is some mental issue going on there.
      Seriously, out of the all of the people he can be friends with, he becomes friends with a person who he only knows because he murdered his brother. That sounds a lot like women who go back to men who beat them.

      April 14, 2013 at 5:38 am |
    • Lorrrr

      I think, Tre, that you are not as deep a person as you believe yourself to be. People are capable of so much more than you think.

      April 14, 2013 at 11:54 am |
  17. abe

    Hope these three kids wont repeat what thier father has done ......I pray for them ...

    April 14, 2013 at 12:31 am |
  18. Cliffintex

    As long as there is life, there is hope. Good story. All of you cynics should learn something here.

    April 14, 2013 at 12:22 am |
    • Science

      Cliffintex

      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/

      April 14, 2013 at 7:07 am |
  19. Kurtis

    This is a damn shame.

    April 14, 2013 at 12:15 am |
  20. unclemax

    Welcome to New York. You can't buy a large drink, but you can commit murder, get married in prison, father 3 kids, and the rest of the suckers in New York will pay for them. Brilliant, simply brilliant. Allowing prisoners to breed and reproduce.

    April 13, 2013 at 11:52 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Perhaps those things will prevent him from becoming a repeat offender.

      April 14, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • Soggy Biscuit

      Livin' the American DREAM!

      April 14, 2013 at 12:08 am |
    • dave

      don't forget, earn a bachelor degree with no money down, no payments for 110 years. meanwhile, i never commited a misdemeanor, still owe 35k in student loans after graduating 8 years ago..

      April 14, 2013 at 1:21 am |
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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.