This Woman’s Act of Forgiveness is Still Inspiring Others After 20 Years

Shari Rigby as Gladys Staines

A mother’s love truly knows no bounds. Women will go to the ends of the earth for their children. One of the most impossible things to forgive would be someone harming a child. When the unthinkable happened, Gladys Staines changed the world by doing just that.

Gladys and her husband Graham devoted their lives to loving people. As missionaries in east India, the Australian couple worked in a remote tribal area. In this area, individuals suffering from leprosy were scorned and cast out of their communities. The Staines ran the Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home, which provided a safe place and food for the ailing while they recovered. They showed Christ’s love by serving the unlovable.

However, their faith was not well received by rebels in the area. On January 22, 1999, on the way back from visiting a tribal area, Graham and his two young sons, Philip and Timothy, stopped to rest. Due to severe cold, they slept in their vehicle. During the night, as Graham and his sons slept soundly, a group of 50 rebels converged upon the camp, setting fire to the vehicle. Reports said that Graham and his sons tried to escape the burning car but were prevented by the mob. Graham, Philip and Timothy were all killed.

Gladys and her daughter Esther, who had stayed home, received the news of the terrible tragedy the next morning. The murders were widely condemned, but Gladys’ response inspired the world. She chose to forgive her husband and sons’ killers stating in an affidavit, “It is far from my mind to punish the persons who were responsible for the death of my husband Graham and my two children. But it is my desire and hope that they would repent and would be reformed.”

Gladys remained in India until 2004, continuing her work with the leprosy home. In 2005, she was awarded the Padma Shri for Social Service, one of India’s highest civilian wares. In 2015, she also received the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice.

Most of us can’t even fathom enduring the loss of a spouse and children in such a horrific manner, but Gladys responded with love and forgiveness. That one act showed the love of God in a more tangible way than any words. Her incredible story is soon to be released in a motion picture called “The Least of These.” She is proof that one act of forgiveness can spark a worldwide movement.

You’re invited to a special sneak peek event of “The Least the These” through Fathom on Jan. 31.  For more information or to purchase tickets to a showing near you, visit