Rais Bhuiyan was one of three people shot — and the only survivor — of a killing spree in Texas after 9/11, committed by white supremacist Mark Stroman. Stroman, who asked Bhuiyan “where he was from” before shooting him in the face, was convicted and executed by lethal injection in 2011.
Edmonds’ Cascadia Art Museum, through Humanities Washington, hosted Bhuiyan for a Nov. 20 lecture called “One Second of Hate.”
“I’ve found that forgiveness works better than revenge.” said Bhuiyan, who founded World Without Hate, an organization whose mission is preventing and disrupting hate and violence through empathy and storytelling.
And not only did Bhuiyan forgive Stroman, but he and others lobbied for his sentence to be commuted to life instead of the death penalty. In a taped interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation shown during the lecture, Stroman had this to say about being forgiven by the man he attempted to murder. “For this man to forgive me, which what I’ve done is unforgiveable, for him to come forward the way he did speaks volumes. It speaks volumes about the human race.” He continued, “One second of hate can cause a lifetime of misery.”
A life-changing moment came for Bhuiyan in 2009 when, after years of trying to rebuild his life, he went on pilgrimage to Mecca. When he returned to the U.S., he no longer felt hatred or the need for revenge against Stroman.
“When I was able to see Mark as a human being like me and learn more about his life and that he hurt too, I was able to forgive him, Bhuiyan said.
Even now, with more than three dozen bullet fragments still lodged on the right side of his face, Bhuiyan remains committed to helping people learn to practice forgiveness, compassion and mercy, because he believes they can transform lives.
“It moves me profoundly to think that the man who tried to kill me because of the ways in which I was different, learned to see the ways in which we were the same enough to call me brother, before he was executed,” Bhuiyan said.
— Story and photos by Misha Carter