Both Sides of The Gun Debate: Dwight Nelson

Dr Dwight Nelson, Senior Pastor of Pioneer Memorial SDA Church at Andrews University delves into both sides of the gun debate taking into account victims and non victims and draws some spiritual lessons.

The issue of freedom to bear guns is such an emotive issue in countries such as the United States that it is difficult to be objective in addressing it as a Christian. However I like the way Dr Nelson dealt with it in this video as he tackles it from both sides of the gun debate.

This is really a must watch for most Christians and non Christians alike.

Gun Show

Gun Show

Below is a transcript of the Video Discussion below:

source: http://www.theevidence.org/article/68/programs/archives/the-evidence/episodes/episode-113-both-sides-of-the-gun/episode-113-both-sides-of-the-gun-v2

Azim Khamisa:
When I first heard that Tariq was shot and killed, it felt like a nuclear bomb had exploded inside of my body – like I was blown into millions of pieces that could never ever come back together. I knew that my life had changed and changed forever.

Dwight Nelson:
On the night of January 21st, 1995, twenty-year-old Tariq Khamisa, was murdered by fourteen-year-old, Tony Hicks, in North Park, a suburb of San Diego, California. Tariq’s father, a Muslim, and Tony’s grandfather, a Christian, were forced together by this crime. Could anything good come out of the tragic story of Tony Hicks and Tariq Khamisa?

Azim Khamisa:
He was an incredibly kind person, a very loving person. And also very humorous. I remember Tariq could crack a joke in the most tense and most serious environment and kind of loosen it out.

Tasreen Khamisa:
Well, what I liked most about my brother was his big heart, his strong commitment to family and friends, his sense of humor (he was hilarious) and also his wisdom. He was an old soul in a young body and always had great advice. He was a very positive, free spirited person.

Dwight Nelson:
Age twenty, in college, and engaged to be married, Tariq Khamisa had grown up with a stable family and strong religious values. By contrast, Tony Hicks, age fourteen, had spent most of his life in the gang-dominated neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles.

Ples Felix:
My grandson’s life was fairly typical of a child who was born to a teenager. She had no experience in parenting. So she relied a great deal on my mom for assistance, her mother for assistance, me for assistance. Tony didn’t have the relationship with his dad or to the extent that he did, his relationship with his dad was filled with heavy criticism and abuse.

Dwight Nelson:
Along with the abuse he received from his father, Tony witnessed violence on the street at a very young age.

Ples Felix:
He had the horrific experience of witnessing the aftermath of one of his teenage cousins being murdered in a gang shooting. Tony arrived on the scene just as the medical examiners were removing the bullet-riddled body of his favorite cousin from his car in which he was murdered. That impacted him severely.

Dwight Nelson:
Tony’s mom decided to send him to San Diego to live with his grandfather. For five years, Ples acted as a father to Tony, reading to him, playing ball with him, caring for his needs. But when Tony turned fourteen, be began to rebel under his grandfather’s strict rules. On January 21st, 1995, he left his grandfather a note: “Daddy, I’ve run away. Love, Tony.”

Ples Felix:
It was very much a jolt. Because I knew that Tony was angry. And when I found the note, the only thing I could do was to, my immediate response was to go out and try to find Tony. But then I called a friend of mine who recommended that I not do that. So, I just called the police and reported Tony as a runaway.

Dwight Nelson:
Tony ran away to join a new family: a gang. Antoine Pittman, the gang’s 18-year-old leader, gave Tony a new name: “Bones”. Antoine, two other boys and Tony, as the newly christened “Bones,” spent the day smoking pot and drinking alcohol and partying. That evening they got hungry but they had no money. So they decided to order pizzas and have them delivered to a fake address. Then rip off the delivery guy. At 9:30 p.m., they called DeMille’s Restaurant. Tariq Khamisa, about to call it a night, was asked to make one final delivery.

Sal Giacalone:
Tariq went to deliver the pizza. He knocked on four doors. It was a small complex. And while he was knocking, the gang had gone around his car and also across the street. They asked him for the pizza and he said no. And the eighteen-year-old told Bones: “Bust him Bones.” And at the point, he shot Tariq and his friends ran off. He was standing there for milliseconds, understanding that the guy he shot was dying, he knew he had done the worst thing he could ever do. He really wanted to help Tariq. I mean, the person that he is, wanted to help this person he had just shot. And he could hear in the distance his friends telling him: “Run! Run! Run! Don’t drop the gun!”

Dwight Nelson:
While waiting for word on his grandson’s whereabouts, Ples Felix saw a news flash about a young pizza delivery man, shot and killed in North Park.

Ples Felix:
And at the time that I saw that, it just, it washed a very, very bad feeling all over me. Because I immediately sensed that Tony was out in the street somewhere, I didn’t know where he was. And here, this evening, there’s a murder that took place in North Park. It was just very, very foreboding for me.

Dwight Nelson:
A story of a fourteen year old boy running away to join a gang and then shooting a young pizza delivery man is news worthy, but unfortunately, not unique. This story however takes a highly unusual turn. We’ll find out what happened next when we come back.

Azim Khamisa:
I was hunched over and I literally left my body. My life drained out of me, from the head downwards to the feet because the pain is so excruciating you cannot really be in your body. And I remember leaving, leaving my body and going into the loving arms of my Maker, the loving arms of God.

Dwight Nelson:
On Saturday night, January 21st, 1995, fourteen-year-old Tony Hicks shot and killed twenty year old Tariq Khamisa in the course of stealing two pizzas. At eight on Sunday morning, Azim Khamisa, Tariq’s father, got a message from Sergeant Lambert to call the San Diego police department.

Azim Khamisa:
They told me that Tariq was shot and killed. Of course, my mind didn’t accept that. And the first thing I thought, they must have made a mistake. So I frantically said good bye and called his number. And Jennifer was on the other line and she couldn’t say anything. She was crying and totally out of it. At which point, I knew that it was true.

Dwight Nelson:
Kit Goldman and her husband were there shortly after Azim got the news.

Kit Goldman:
I’ve never seen a human being shattered, as disintegrated, as Azim and subsequently his family was as they began to arrive. He was a person completely apart, the only way I can put it, It was amazing to me that he was walking around because he was in pieces.

Dwight Nelson:
Azim Khamisa now had the task of telling Tariq’s mother her only son had been murdered.

Azim Khamisa:
And I told her in broken words as much as I could in shock of what had happened. And my recollection is that she let out a shriek and collapsed to the floor. And I can still hear that in my inner ear as I say this. The next call was to my mother and my daughter (My daughter was visiting my mother.)

Tasreen Khamisa:
We arrived at my dad’s house and I walked in the door and when I saw my dad, just something overcame me and I…I collapsed again on the floor. I was trying to be strong from, you know, all the way here for my mom because I needed to be strong for her. But seeing my dad, and seeing Jennifer, my brother’s fianc√© was here as well, seeing the both of them was just overwhelming for me. And we were all here and started praying. All we could do was start praying for strength.

Dwight Nelson:
While Tariq Khamisa’s family grieved, Ples Felix received a different kind of phone call from the police.

Ples Felix:
I was notified by the detective that Tony was no longer considered a runaway but that he was a prime suspect in the murder of Tariq Khamisa. All that foreboding that I had sensed the Saturday night upon seeing the newsreel just kind of came home to me. And it was with a lot of deep emotion, extreme disappointment. And I began automatically to clarify my grieving for Tariq Khamisa and his family. As I knew that Tariq was gone. And his family had to do the best they could to address that in their grieving. But I knew that Tony’s life would just begin to be on a path that none of us can anticipate. In that ultimately, he would end up in the prison system.

Azim Khamisa:
Tony Hicks was the first juvenile to be tried as an adult under a newly passed California law. On June 11, 1995, Tony appeared before Superior Court Judge Joan Weber.

Judge Joan Weber:
Admitting, Sir, that on that day, you did in fact shoot and kill Mr. Khamisa during the attempted commission of a robbery. Is that correct?

Tony Hicks: Yes.
Azim Khamisa:
I did not participate in the trial. I did not go to court. My attitude about the kids was different in terms of what society wanted.

Tony Hicks:
I had a lot of problems in my life. Over the last year when I’ve been in Juvenile Home, I’ve thought about my problems. I wish I didn’t have the type of life I had. I wish I had a relationship with my father. I think about the warning that my grandfather gave me.

Azim Khamisa:
This kid made a mistake when he shot and killed Tariq Khamisa, but he’s basically a good person.

Tony Hicks:
I’m very sorry for what I’ve done.

Dwight Nelson:
Tony Hicks was sentenced to 25 years to life in an adult prison. He must serve 20 years before he is eligible for parole.

Azim Khamisa:
It’s a difficult thing for a father. Because as a father, it’s your job to make the world safe and secure for your children. There’s a big sense of failure when you lose a child. Because you feel that you’ve failed your responsibility.

Dwight Nelson:
The story doesn’t end here. Ples Felix and Azim Khamisa began working together to bring something good, something God-like, out of their painful memories. We’ll learn about what they are doing when we meet both Ples and Azim here in the studio after this.

Dwight Nelson:
Azim Khamisa is the father of Tariq Khamisa who was shot and killed by Tony Hicks. Tony Hicks is the grandson of Ples Felix. Ples and Azim, delighted to have you on The Evidence. The last we hear, just a moment ago, we’re coming up to Tony’s sentencing. But before Tony is sentenced, you meet. How did that meeting turn out Azim?

Azim Khamisa:
Well, I asked for the meeting. I had made a decision to start a foundation in memory of my son, the Tariq Khamisa Foundation. And I asked the District -the Deputy District Attorney – to set up a meeting. And I was under the impression that I was going to meet with the Public Defender that defended Tony. Because he wanted to know why I wanted to meet Ples. When I arrived there with the Deputy DA and another member of the Foundation, Mike Reynolds, Ples was already there.

Dwight Nelson:
You walk into the room and Ples is there.

Azim Khamisa: Ples is already there.
Dwight Nelson: What was that moment like?
Azim Khamisa:
It took me by surprise. And I stopped, but then I continued. And I was introduced to Ples by Peter. And I opened the conversation and I told Ples that I wanted him to know that I didn’t feel any animosity towards him.

Dwight Nelson: Ples, what was your reaction?
Ples Felix:
Well, for me this was an answer to my prayer. Because as soon as I knew that Tony was responsible for Tariq’s death, I began to pray and asked for an opportunity to meet Tariq’s family. So meeting Azim and shaking his hand and expressing my condolences and sympathies and letting him know that I was keeping his family in my daily prayers and meditations, and that I wanted to make myself available in any way that I could to assist him and his family with their loss.

Dwight Nelson:
In fact, you met the whole family, what was it, a week or two later?

Azim Khamisa:
I invited Ples to my house. We had our second meeting for the Foundation about a week after I had met him. And at the second meeting, my entire family was there. My father was there. Tariq’s mother was there. My daughter was there. My sister was there. And my mom was there. And we had fifty other guests. And Ples came. And I think it took a lot of courage on his part to come to my house and meet all of the Khamisas and also to talk in front of fifty people. And he committed to help any which way he could. And that was six years ago and as you see, we’re still together, working together.

Dwight Nelson:
How would you describe the passion of your Foundation?

Azim Khamisa:
Well the goal of our Foundation is to stop children from killing children.

Dwight Nelson: Ok.
Azim Khamisa:
They would choose a different path than Tony did. We have a prevention program. And I’m pleased to tell you our results are extremely exemplary.

Dwight Nelson: Good.
Azim Khamisa:
We’re shifting attitudes that lead to revenge.

Dwight Nelson:
You’re going into schools. You’re going into Public Schools, sitting down with the kids? Or how does that work?

Azim Khamisa:
What they do in this program, they see a very powerful video.

Dwight Nelson: Is this where Tony’s speech is played?
Azim Khamisa:
Absolutely. And we also reenacted the murder scene.

Dwight Nelson: Oh, you have.
Azim Khamisa:
So it’s a powerful video. It starts there. And then I get up and talk about the impact this tragedy on me and my family. Ples gets up and speaks about the impact his tragedy has on his life and his family. And then we have a male panelist and a female panelist that were both gang members who are now doing good work.

Dwight Nelson:
May I ask you then, was justice served in Tony’s sentence?

Azim Khamisa:
Yes. There was never a real trial. When the trial finally arrived, Tony pled guilty and took responsibility for taking my son’s life. He gave a very remorseful, emotional speech where he begs for God’s forgiveness and my forgiveness.

Dwight Nelson:
Were you able to forgive him when he asked for that?

Azim Khamisa:
I had already forgiven him prior to that. Because I had already met Ples and the Foundation was already going.

Dwight Nelson: Ok.
Azim Khamisa:
But it meant a lot to me that he did ask for it

Dwight Nelson:
Ples, justice was served…in the sentencing of your grandson?

Ples Felix:
I would have to say that justice was served with respect to Tony’s taking responsibility for what he did. For seeking forgiveness of those that he harmed and to commit himself to being a better person. However, I don’t agree that kids, fourteen years old, should be thrown into an adult prison.

Azim Khamisa:
And I endorse that. I was not in favor…

Dwight Nelson: You weren’t??
Azim Khamisa:
…of children at fourteen being tried as adults. Now, my feeling is that it takes 16 to drive a car, 18 to vote and 21 to have a drink. How is a 14 year old an adult?

Dwight Nelson:
Now gentlemen, Muslim, Christian, how does that work?

Azim Khamisa: Well…
Ples Felix:
Easily…very easily.

Dwight Nelson:
Easily, how?

Azim Khamisa:
I think that the belief systems may be different, but when spiritual people meet together that commonness is always there. Like, Ples and I have never had a challenge in terms of our spiritual resonance. It has been there from day one. And if anything, is resonating even at a higher frequency.

Dwight Nelson: Ples?
Ples Felix:
Actually it’s easy because basically when you get right down to it, we really have to rely on each other as human beings. We really do. In our neighborhoods, schools, and our communities. The best work we do is the work we do together with one another for one another. The best work we could ever aspire to do is working together on behalf of our children. Because they are going to grow up having learned from us. And we want to make sure they have good habits and a great portion of those habits having to do with the willingness to work with people who may not think like you do. Who may not speak like you do. But basically have the same goal in mind. Some good, positive productive outcome, and certainly on behalf of children.

Dwight Nelson:
One last question gentlemen. Our nation has been through a horrific experience, you know. What would you say to your fellow Americans?

Azim Khamisa:
You are right. There are very difficult days ahead. There’s a lot of healing to be done. And I really wish there was a Muslim Nelson Mandela right now that could stand up and say, that these people that create these heinous acts are not Muslims. I’m pretty mad that they have done this to my country and hijacked my faith.

Dwight Nelson: Ples?
Ples Felix:
For me, what’s important is, is that we do everything we can to support the healing. And the healing begins with thinking in loving terms. First, with the family members and the people that we are close to. And spreading that love out to people that we don’t even know, but making ourselves available. In a compassionate, loving way. And certainly in a forgiving way. Because forgiveness is really major step towards redemption as well as healing. And for healing to take place there has to be love. There has to be compassion and there has to be forgiveness.

Dwight Nelson:
Gentlemen, thank you very much. Well put. Ples, Azim, thank you for being with us here at The Evidence.

Azim Khamisa: Thank you for having us.
Dwight Nelson:
For more information on Ples and Azim and the work they are doing with their Foundation to stop the violence between kids, check out our website. It’s one word: theevidence.org. I’ll be back in just a moment.

Dwight Nelson:
Ples Felix’s grandson, shot and killed Azim Khamisa’s son over a couple of pizzas. You and I might have expected the two men to hate each other or at least to have nothing more to do with each other as they attempted to move on with their lives. But Ples and Azim, a Christian and a Muslim, overcame their differences and joined together to help kids stop killing kids. They brought something good out of the evil they both suffered. Why is that? In a world where it is more natural to accept a bank error in your favor than to call and correct it, what makes Ples and Azim so extraordinary? Has the world been mysteriously infused by goodness? And does that point to God? I believe it does. I think the existence of goodness is evidence for the existence of God. A God who works in us to behave against our natural tendency. A God who brings forgiveness in place of revenge. I agree with Ples and Azim. There is evidence for God in the goodness they have found in the midst of their sorrow. I’m Dwight Nelson. Join us next time for more of The Evidence.

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