Friday, August 21, 2009

Radical Grace

EDINBURGH, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 20: Justice...Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Yesterday, Scotland released the only terrorist ever to be convicted of the Lockerbie airplane bombing.  270 people died in that bombing back in 1988.  Finally, in 2001, a Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was convicted and sentence to a life sentence. 

As it turns out the guy has terminal prostate cancer and has been given less than three months to live.  Scotland has released him to return to his homeland to die with his family.  The guy killed 270 people and only served 8 years. He's got to pay more than that!  How outrageous, people are saying.  (BTW, if the prognosis is right he did serve "life" less three months).

How many years should one serve for taking a life? Does any minute, day, month, year, decade served do anything to mitigate the damage caused?  Would 1,000 years bring one person killed back?  I don't understand the idea that revenge somehow pays back the original crime. 

Last night on the local news they read a few emails of reaction.  They were unanimously critical of the Scottish government.  But, the one that really caught my attention went something like this:

"How dare the Scottish government release the killer of all those people.  He took their lives without mercy.  Why should we show him grace?" 
What grabbed me about this (and I don't remember it word for word) was the word "grace".   I  distinctly remember she used that word. The best definition I've ever heard of grace is "unmerited or unearned favor".  Grace is not earned.  Grace is not a response to something that someone else does.  Grace is given freely.  Grace has no strings attached.  Yes, the Scottish government showed grace. She got that part right. But, what she was confused about is that somehow he should have earned his grace.

I say "Bravo" to the Scottish government for showing they have more humanity and compassion than the killer showed his victims.  I say "bravo" for making the hard decision and doing the humane thing. It's only through remarkable and unexpected actions like this that we can ever hope to break the cycle of violence we find ourselves caught in. Maybe, just maybe,  a few would-be Isalamfacists will look at this and realize we are humans too.  Maybe....  Maybe not.  But, even if they don't.  The Scots did the right thing.  Grace is freely given and no payment is expected for grace.

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annie said...

amen brian!!! my thoughts exactly when i heard about this. what has surprised me, is that so few people have (publicly anyway) expressed this view. most want "justice" (iow, revenge).

so, the libyans were dancing in the streets yesterday, celebrating him as a hero. i couldn't care less. let them have their party, however inappropriate. aisi, it still in no way detracts from the laudable actions of the scottish government, demonstrating a good example of what "civilized" society looks like. we don't need to behave like heartless barbarians simply because others choose to. i pray that those who lost loved ones in his heinous crime can see that and not feel that the loss of their loved ones has somehow been minimized by grace shown to a brother-enemy. in the same way that incarcerating him, even executing him, would not bring back his victims, neither does his release diminish them. to the divine wider mercy shown by the scots, a deep reverent bow. namaste.

Brian said...

Hey Annie,

After wrangling with you over the health care issue, it's nice to be on the same side on this one.

Yeah, we're a couple of radicals. I haven't anyone else say this either. That's why I had to put it out there.

So, what if the Libyans were dancing in the streets? Hopefully, they were celebrating his homecoming, not his deeds. But, either way, that doesn't diminish what the Scots had the nerve to do. I commend them.

BTW, I haven't lost a loved on in a bombing. But, I have had a loved one murdered. His killer was never caught. Had they caught him and punished him, that would have done nothing for me.

Lisa said...

Even though he is dying,he should not be trusted and he should still be monitored.

~Katherine said...

Monitored? Some people REALLY want total security and that's expensive, not just in money but sanity. No thanks.

Brian, spot on with this commentary. I just discovered your blog. Love the title and the description and and and... it's great. Good to see you. I followed you by looking on the followers of Dena's blog. So now I'm a stalk you. :D I'm a descendant of Scotland and this news of the release of a plane bomber of all people makes me really happy to know. Too cool. Maybe America can make me proud in the same way sometime. I'd love to see that day.