The Judas Passion
Can the ultimate betrayal ever be forgiven?
All Words for Forgiveness Responses to the theme of forgiveness by students and teachers.
All words for forgiveness
Earlier in the year we invited schools to participate in a creative writing competition inspired by The Judas Passion. We asked pupils and teachers to submit new writing on the theme of forgiveness in any form and received many wonderful entries from across the country. We are delighted to present our winners on the following pages of this programme. First prize was awarded to Aoife Soni, Year 9 pupil at Headington School for the poem Black Standard. Second prize was awarded to Becky McNutt, Year 12 pupil at Abbey Grange Academy for her poem Eve.
First prize pupil entry
Aoife Soni, Headington School
‘There is no God but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah’ Like a heart it pulsated With startling vitality The white stamp undulating in the waning breeze Such meaning and overwhelming power In the small piece of cloth I will never understand And it’s maddening The ersatz glory Which means so much and has cost so many And it’s rallying cry Rouses love Or fear to dominate men Forgive me God I know I have sinned Blood drips off my palms And stains the underside of my nails I beg You – make it stop And yet I know I do not deserve Your mercy And the faceless graves Are now planted in the earth No more than names on stone But I did it for You All I hear Is the spectral silence of shattered souls – A haunted symphony Composed by none other Than myself
Only then did I realise You had no part in this It was not you who held the baton And at my hands Faith turned to carnage Love to destruction Lord I am sorry And I cannot forgive myself. Each day I stare at the pallid sky Surrounded by imprisoned air And imprisoned light And Them how could They ever forgive me Their cold bodies Motionless under Piled heaps of mud Frigid countenances staring into my soul I let its riveting nature compel me To the apocalyptic frame The affiliated movement The compulsive insurgency And I let it Consume me Like a heart it pulsated With startling vitality The white stamp undulating in the waning breeze Such meaning and overwhelming power In the small piece of cloth I will never understand And now I lie Free from my veil of delusion Hatred And love Please, God, *Forgive me
Second prize pupil entry
Becky McNutt, Abbey Grange Academy
In the beginning was Darkness An artless harshness of black matter A sin splatter Suspending the nothing before the light ‘Let there be light’ he said And I caught alight The whiteness fighting the sinful spite Of unknowing The brightness was growing Was glowing A match sparked a flame, gave a name And I breathed ‘Eve’, He called me, ‘the earth is your child’ So I cradled the land and the oceans My gentlest motions gave courage to currents to flow To strong winds to blow, sky to snow I whispered sweet songs and taught flowers to grow And the earth was their haven The pride of my children was man The lamb whose mind could create the wildest contraptions, Inventions, reactions A prodigy placed in my arms And I nurtured his mind with new mysteries and charms And showed benefaction But years passed and he grew in a different way More his own every day So obsessed with his human endeavour His cleverness severed the cord Disarray
His buildings spewed poisonous clouds And the heat from his houses, it burned me His arrogance spurned me I begged him to stop but his hate overturned me He drilled through my body I begged for somebody to help But he strangled my throat till I choked Silence The pain of his malice, it turned me I shifted and oceans crashed down on his towns And his peoples I flattened his churches, his shrines and his steeples What makes him deserve this? I cannot reverse this In the beginning was Darkness An artless harshness of black matter A sin splatter And now darkness covers the Eve again
Winning teacher entry
‘I’m Sorry, Carole Smith’
Craig Ennew, English teacher at Bishop Wordsworth’s School, Salisbury It was me: I had killed you. I had turned it over and over again in my eight year-old head, useless thoughts like wet laundry flopping in the final throes of a drum. What if I hadn’t said this? What if I hadn’t done that? Why, dear God, did I ever join in with the others? I took myself back to when you first came to our school: Mr. Neville, the headmaster, beckoning you and your younger brother to the front of the hall at the start of assembly: “This is Carole Smith and her little brother, Peter. They are starting with us today - Carole will be with Swallows; Peter with Jays. I’m sure we shall do everything we can to make them feel welcome.” He beamed, but some of us noticed that he didn’t rest his hand gently on your back, as he’d done before with other new children. A hundred and twenty pairs of eyes had crawled over your scuffed shoes, your threadbare cardigan, your unkempt hair. Your legs were impossibly thin, mottled sharp sticks that stuck out from a shapeless short skirt. Your toes turned inwards, and you shivered in the icy, arrant blast of our collective judgement. I see you so clearly, still. A little old woman before your time: thin, pinched mouth; shrewd eyes; jutting chin. Skinny fingers twitching and fidgeting by your side. In no time, we learned that, with your mother, you’d moved into the semi-derelict house that sat apart from the rest of the council estate. Our village back then: a mir-
ror to 1970s class-divided Britain. At its entrance, the old farmhouses, the manor and the sturdy Victorian pub with its swinging sign; further down the road, the wide, bland windows of the newish estate to which I belonged - a semi-detached, pampas-grassed mediocrity of twitching net curtains; and then, tucked away at the other end, narrow, labyrinthine, toddler-strewn streets that defined a rural council estate. Marauding kids had pelted your windows with stones, even before your family came. The glass remained shattered, dark curtains patched over to keep things out and other things in. You, your mother and your brother Peter had been in for weeks before any of us knew that it was occupied. I remember how your lawn was strewn with broken fence panels, broken glass, a stainless steel sink, soggy cardboard boxes filled with empty sherry bottles. There was a washing line, permanently adorned with the same mould-riddled, shapeless garments- come rain or shine. No toys. Never any toys. From the outset, we were merciless. With the scent of victim in our nostrils, we - I closed in. Joanna Merritt was the first to take aim. “Go and sniff her,” she dared us, her eyes thin and cruel. “She stinks of wee.” One by one, goading each other, we’d tiptoe behind you like pantomime villains, pinching the back of your cardigan between thumb and forefinger, lifting the fabric to our noses. And then, the obligatory over-reaction: loud squeals of disgust, screwed-up faces, to beat a retreat back to the gang, wiping the ‘germs’ across jumpers and anoraks. “You touched Carole Smith! You touched Carole Smith. You’ve caught it off her!”
‘I’m Sorry, Carole Smith’
I wonder now: at what exact moment in time, if any, did that faint, acrid reek of ammonia really reach our nostrils? Or was it was just childish fancy? The taunting went on. We called you all the names under the sun that our spiteful, childish imaginations could muster. We pinched, kicked, spat. Occasionally, you hit back, but we knew that you’d never run to the teacher: neglect had deprived you of any real faith in them or any other adult. After that first summer, you didn’t come back. We were all to pre-occupied with our own lives to notice at first. But then, one morning in September, Mr. Neville made an announcement: “Carole Smith,” he said, “is poorly. Very poorly. You... we... are all going to need to be very gentle and kind with her when she returns.” Pause. “Carole has what the doctors call a ‘hole in the heart’.” A hundred thought bubbles containing perfect Tom-and-Jerry hearts punctuated by black circle bullet holes sprung above our heads. We never really knew what ‘a hole in the heart’ meant and we never asked to know more. But more was to come. A week later, we were told that you were going to be away for two or three weeks – perhaps more. While you were in hospital, your brother Peter would stay with your grandparents, far, far away at the other end of the country. A month passed and one Wednesday afternoon, hobby-time was cancelled, and we were all summoned to the hall once more. In a few quiet words, we were told that you had passed away the previous week. As he told us, Mr. Neville took off his glasses, and wiped them with his handker-
chief. I watched his face work as he looked down, and wondered how he was feeling. To the side of the hall, the other teachers looked on with grim expressions. No tears. We just all looked ahead, each one of us running over our last interactions with you: the strange, thin little girl we had barely known. As Mr. Neville folded his hands together and led a quiet prayer, I stared ahead. There was a burning question that none of us could give voice to: whose cruel words or careless fists had been the last to puncture that fragile heart of yours? Who was to blame? For a long time, I remained convinced that it was me. It was the first time I had truly felt shame. The fact that I made a card for your mother is no compensation, I know. To compound this vanity, when I’d crept round to your house to quickly slip it under the front door, I found your place bleak and long since untenanted. I’d folded the card and shoved it back into my coat pocket, ready to lose it in one of the litter bins on the way home. My life went on, with the various tiny trials and tribulations that childhood rolls out. Yours did not. You took the dark secrets of that house on the corner with you. I’m sorry, Carole Smith. I lacked the courage to be your friend, and now it’s too late for forgiveness. All I have for you is the promise that, from the day we learned of your death, your quirky spirit lingered on the edges of my conscience as a small voice defending the underdog. It remains there still.
London Yet To Forgive
Alana Smith, City of London Girls School
Once peaceful and serene, Chaos at bay, The City of London, May now hope and pray. Its overlaying skyline, And buildings so tall, Let calm lay upon us, A merciful shawl. The chattering voices, New cranes at the ready, Now they live in fear, So cautious and steady. People were joyful, Gleaming and alive, Now every step is a risk, To die or survive. They take innocent lives, And hand us over, To Death and his cold heart More closer and more closer. But let us not live in doubt, Or in a tight restrictive chain, We live as one, United, and not in vain.
The City of London, Repairs itself from this mess, However hard for us it is, We must show forgiveness. The City of London, Repairs itself from this mess, However hard for us it is, We must show forgiveness. And let us not turn our backs, To our fellows we trust, Let them reach out with love, And embrace it, we must. And what could we do, Wait for time to pass? Or forgive these others, And let this emotion surpass. Forgiveness is for London, Forgiveness is for sanity, Forgiveness is for you and me, And all of humanity.
Carys Hogan, Wavell School
Court, September 15th, 2007. He’s here Nothing can suppress the aching pain I feel inside of me. My heart clamours at my chest. My ribs feel like sticks, twigs, ready to snap and break any moment. The tension is almost too much. This monster, this murderer, this boy is finally in front of me. Curly blonde hair, eyes of ice. He’s here to face justice. He’s here to face me. It’s taken years to get this far. Years of campaigning just to see him. Just to stop this beast killing any more of children, my children. And now he’s here, but it doesn’t seem real. Tanya’s death doesn’t seem real.
But he doesn’t look like a murderer. As he approaches the stand, I look at him properly for the first time. Not mugshots, not tv, just him. In the prison pyjamas, he looks almost like a child about to be scolded. Wide eyes, slumped posture, fearful look… He can’t be more than 15, no, 14. He’s barely out of school! This can’t be right. He can’t be guilty. Surely, they can’t sentence him to death? Are people born evil? Or do people become evil? Are any people evil at all? Just as people aren’t perfect, couldn’t it be people aren’t evil either? Is this boy evil? Can I sentence an innocent person to death? Can I sentence an evil boy to death?
But she’s not. Tanya, whose wild blonde hair showed every inch of her majestic beauty, and crystal blue eyes shined like diamonds on a summer day. Tanya, whose magical laugh struck envy into the hearts of her enemies, yet even they could not hate her. Tanya wasn’t evil. She was angelic. Tanya didn’t take life for granted. Tanya didn’t deserve to die.
September 17th, 2007
Tanya, my daughter who’s not here… Yet he is… I don’t even know what has happened to her. She left about 7:00 on that fateful night, and never returned. The police have told me all they can. It happened around 9. 9 o’ clock… I would have been making dinner, complaining about life. How tedious all my complaints then seem in comparison to now. They say she was out with her friends. They were at a night club. They were singing, dancing, laughing… She was there… Then he was.
Tobi. His name is Tobi. Tobi Wake. 13 years old. Born in Virginia, 1994. His mother abandoned him as a child. His father, an alcoholic. A bad upbringing, by any means. He wouldn’t have been taught moral right and wrong. But does that mean it isn’t his fault? Where do we draw the line between the fault of his parents, and the fault of his choices? I’m going to see him. I’m going to see Tobi. I need to meet him, talk to him, know him… Who is Tobi? The murderer of my daughter. 14 years old. A son. A brother. A friend. An enemy. Yet this, for some strange reason, still doesn’t answer my question.
Carys Hogan, Wavell School
Court, September 21st, 2007.
Verdict, October 21st, 2007.
“Tobi…” Well, here I am. In court. In front of him.
Forgiveness. What is forgiveness? It’s acceptance that you can’t change the past. It’s hope for a bright and better future. It’s undying love even to those who have wronged you. Forgiveness is this overwhelming strength which brings peace to the heart, and enlightenment to the mind.
He’s here. It’s time. “You killed my daughter, Tanya. You killed her, and in doing so, you killed part of me. There are people here who hate you. Most people who will for a long sentence, who will be so sure you belong in hell. They see you as the murderer you technically are… When she was younger, she used to fall asleep holding my hand. I used to sing her to sleep, so I knew she was sleeping peacefully. Almost as though as if doing that I could shield her from all the wrong in the world. Songs about love, moons, stars, angels… When she died, I truly believed there was no point to my existence. I want to bring her back. Tanya. I wish, I wish… I could breathe life into her now cold body. I wish I could kiss warmth back into her once rosy cheeks. I want to feel happy. I want to sleep in peace, and wake in joy. I want to live, live for Tanya. Because you took her life. It’s hard. It’s hard to know I must move on, yet I keep looking back. It’s hard to do what I know inside I must. I have a duty, sir. Not only to Tanya, but to myself. I don’t know why I don’t hate you. The truth is, when she died, I lost my daughter, but gained an angel. You, sir, have killed my daughter. Yet you’ve taught me the most enlightening thing. I need to stop tying rocks to my feet until I can’t walk. I want to fly. I need to fly. Therefore, Tobi, you are forgiven”
Forgiveness is moving on. Forgiveness is freedom. Tanya may have died. Maybe unjustly, without mercy. But that doesn’t mean we should treat her killer equally coldly. I loved Tanya. She was a loving person. So, I must show love in the form of forgiveness. Forgiving is fixing an old bridge. Now, it is new and ready to build on again. I do not have to keep in contact with Tobi, but I can rest assured that I have done all I can to save him, and save myself. “We find the defendant…”
Louis Stammers, Saffron Walden County Hall
Forgiveness is a special way of making yourself and others feel good. If something goes wrong, the best way is forgiveness. If you donâ€™t forgive, you become horrible and you will have loads of problems. Once I was walking with my food I was really enjoying it when I saw a homeless man. He tripped me up but I gave food to him and that made me and him feel good. Life is precious and you have to look after it otherwise you will end up in the same position as that homeless man. Forgiveness always has a reward and that is joy. If all of our world had forgiveness, then our world would be amazing.
Published on Sep 19, 2017
Earlier in the year we invited schools to participate in a creative writing competition inspired by The Judas Passion. We asked pupils and t...