Sunday, August 08, 2010

Cardinal Keith O'Brien: We must seek justice rather than vengeance.

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland has come out strongly against the United States objection to the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi last year on compassionate grounds.

He acknowledges that it is natural for the victims families to want vengeance, but makes the point that it is exactly at moments such as this that we should show our humanity.

The murder of 270 innocent people on board Pan Am flight 103 and in the town of Lockerbie on 21 December 1988 was an act of unbelievable horror and gratuitous barbarity. It is completely natural and understandable that many of those most directly affected, the bereaved and their families would want justice even vengeance. It is in the midst of such inhuman barbarism, however, that we must act to affirm our own humanity. It is in these moments of grief and despair that we must show the world that the standards of the murderer and his disdain for human life are not our standards. They may plunge to the depths of human conduct but we will not follow them.
That really is the point here. We can show mercy where the terrorist did not. That's not weakness, that is the very thing which distinguishes us. We recognise that there is nothing to be gained from punishing a dying man, that we do not want to be the kind of people who would do such a thing.

Too many American politicians seem unable to grasp this point. They seem to confuse justice and vengeance.
For Christians, the teaching of St Paul in his letter to the Romans is clear: "Vengeance is mine says the Lord", revenge is not a path we should take. A statement from the Criminal, Justice and Parole Division of the Scottish Government earlier this year stating that "the perpetration of an atrocity should not be a reason for losing sight of the values people in Scotland seek to uphold and the faith and beliefs by which we seek to live the values of humanity and compassion" I hope is a reflection of a view that would be held and endorsed by people of many faiths and none.
He goes on to attack the United States for their continuing belief in the death penalty, which he says puts them on a par with "Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and China." It's certainly true that the US continuance of the death penalty puts them in very strange company, but there really is no other way that one could fairly compare the United States to those other regimes. So, on that point, I think he is being slightly unfair.

However, in his main point, - "I think the United States government in many, many states - more than half of the states in the United States - they have a culture of vengeance" - I am in complete agreement.

Scotland showed mercy and compassion. Those are fine qualities and attributes. The US politicians who condemn would do well to try instead to emulate what Scotland has done.

We should not shy away from what differs us from the terrorist, that should go without saying.

Click here for full article.

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