I am thrilled with the justification Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill gave for the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi. Announcing extremely unpopular decision for the release of Megrahi, convicted as responsible for destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, MacAskill made this justification:
[Megrahi] now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is one that no court, in any jurisdiction, in any land, could revoke or overrule. It is terminal, final and irrevocable. He is going to die. (New York Times Link)
[Megrahi] did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days. No compassion was shown by him to them […] But, that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days […] Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion be available. Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown. Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people – no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated […] (New York Times Link)
“Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown.”
Maybe I’m a sap. Maybe I’m just too compassionate. Maybe I’m just too merciful. But that statement is the kind of justice I would like to live under: Justice, tempered by mercy and compassion. In fact, it reminds me an awful lot of the Justice of God: Justice, tempered with mercy and compassion. Megrahi faces that. He is dying. I hope he’s able to repent of all his crimes, in time. Who knows? I might even pray for his repentance.
The thing that makes this situation more complex is that Megrahi steadfastly proclaims his innocence. According to NPR this morning (when I first learned of their situation), many Britons believe this. So, we have a convicted terrorist who claims his innocence, released by the convicting power for reasons of compassion.
For balance’s sake, most of the victims’ families are outraged (this is according to the CNN headline, as well as the body of their article). It is not difficult to understand why they are. But I am not a victim, nor a family member of a victim. I cannot pretend to argue for them, nor do I think I should pretend to. It doesn’t seem particularly respectful or soothing to their pain.
I’m not arrogant enough to pronounce that Justice or Mercy or Compassion has been served/abused in this case. But I am confident enough in myself to say that I am encouraged by Scotland’s language, if not by their actual motivation (which is politically murky and probably very corrupt, which is probably why they dressed it up so nice).
It is an awfully brave thing to do, to affirm mercy, when no one would fault you for saying, “No.” When your best friend in the entire world (played by America) is saying, “No.”
So I applaud Scotland for their decision today. To show compassion and mercy is to display godliness. I hope that was MacAskill’s goal today. If not, I do not greatly care. Mercy and compassion were shown. Glory to God, who has mercy on whom He has mercy, and compassion on whom He has compassion. Pray that you are one of them. Pray for me. Pray for Megrahi.
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