Man who forgave son's killer reunites with Canadian musician who sang his story
Peter Katz wrote Forgiveness after hearing grieving dad Michael Berg on As It Happens
This story was originally published on Oct. 8, 2018.
The man being interviewed was Michael Berg, whose son Nicholas suffered a gruesome death two years earlier, after he was captured by al-Qaeda forces while working as a contractor in Iraq.
Berg said he forgave the man who killed his son. The interview inspired Katz to write a song in his honour called Forgiveness.
"Canadian musicians spend a lot of time listening to CBC," Katz told As It Happens host Carol Off. "But it was one of those interviews that I kind of just zeroed in on as I clued into what was being said."
Twelve years later, the two men reunited on As It Happens.
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The man believed to have killed Nicholas was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq.
After news broke in 2006 that al-Zarqawi had himself been killed in a U.S. airstrike, Berg began speaking out against the attack.
"There were people that loved him and there are people that are now suffering the same pain that my family and I have suffered," Berg said at at the time.
"I cannot and I will not ever justify revenge, because that would justify my son's death."
Threats and gunshots
For many of his fellow Americans, Berg's position was itself unforgivable. He faced intense media backlash, death threats and was even shot at, he said.
But he stayed true to his message of forgiveness.
"I think I was still pretty much living on adrenaline," Berg said. "And as Peter said in his song, I felt like I had nothing left to lose."
But Katz had a different response to Berg's message.
"As I was listening to the interview, I just wasn't expecting the way it was going to unfold," he said.
"When I found out that people called him a coward and had shot at him, I said hang on a second. The message that this man is saying is the most courageous, brave choice I've ever heard somebody ever make."
A 'kind and generous' performance
Katz was so moved by what he heard that he pulled over and immediately began writing what would become a song called Forgiveness.
Katz eventually reached out to Berg, and the two began a correspondence.
They finally met in 2008, when Katz travelled to West Chester, Penn., to perform in a concert held in Nicholas's honour.
"I stood on a stage, and in my view were Nick's friends and family and teachers. And Michael. And I got to play this song," Katz said.
"My whole body's shaking just thinking about that moment and how touched I felt to be able to contribute in that way."
For Berg, hearing the song for the first time was an overwhelming experience.
"I was overcome. In light of all the negative reactions that I had, that someone would have such an understanding of what I meant, and be so kind and generous in his respect just overcame me.
"It still does. Every time I hear it."
Written by Kevin Ball. Interview produced by Kevin Ball.