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.