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Forgiveness and understanding

In a world that seems increasingly preoccupied with revenge, retribution and angry rhetoric, it is comforting, even inspiring, to listen to a 32-year-old New Yorker named Christopher Wilson.

Wilson, the victim of a racially motivated attack that left him burned over 40 percent of his body, is back in Tampa, where the crime occurred, quietly spreading a message of tolerance and peace. The case against two of the men charged with setting Wilson on fire last New Year's Day will now be tried in another city because the crime attracted so much attention.

Wilson says he hopes that whatever the outcome of the trial, people will not react with anger or violence.

"I don't really want anybody to get hurt, even if they are found not guilty," Wilson said, at his first press conference Thursday. "I think I've hurt enough already for them. It would hurt me more to see someone else hurt."

Wilson, a man with every right to hate Tampa and its people, said he didn't blame this community for what happened to him. In fact, he said, he still might move here. Tampa, says Wilson, "is a very nice place."

Wilson is blessed with a boyish face and a gentle spirit. Originally from Jamaica, hesaid he had never encountered blatant racism until this incident. It wasn't part of the world he lived in. Now it is.

He says he is now more cautious around people. But he works hard to avoid anger and bitterness.

"I'm not an angry person. I try my best not to think about it," he said of the attack.

The vicious attack on Wilson has touched the hearts of people all over the Tampa Bay area. They followed the case so closely, lawyers were unable to seat an impartial jury.

Wilson's words of forgiveness and understanding should go a long way toward diffusing the hate that prompted his attack in the first place.

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