Tuesday, August 25, 2009


No one can fail to have heard of the release of Libyan Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison for repatriation to his home to die. This man was indicted on 270 counts of murder in 1991 for being a perpetrator of the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. He has always maintained his innocence. Medical experts agree that Megrahi will die from prostate cancer within three months, and under Scottish law this condition meets the criterion for compassion whereby he can be allowed to spend his dying days with his family. The final decision for his release lay squarely on the shoulders of the Scottish Justice Minister, Mr Kenny MacAskill, who had the unenviable task, because whatever his decision, there would be those who would object, particularly relatives of the innocent people killed in the atrocity and the US administration, the main basis of their objections being the apparent injustice of the compassion shown. There are those too who believe the fight against terrorism has been severely weakened by giving the wrong signal, one of weakness.

MacAskill, himself observed that Megrahi had not shown compassion, and yet that was not a valid reason for not showing compassion to Megrahi who would be judged by a Higher Authority i.e., God.

Compassion is not just an emotion; it is an inner conviction that often leads to action for the relief and aid of those in need. Compassion is not uniquely a Christian attribute, for all mainstream religions teach the blessings of charity for the poor and those in need. Compassion is something more than empathy. Every person with a loving heart, religious or not, contains a seed of compassion.

Megrahi’s reception in Tripoli appears to have been ‘over the top’ for one convicted of such a horrific crime and there has been criticism from those who object to the flying of the saltire or Scottish flag on his arrival. With the best will, this act can be seen as a tribute to Scotland for the compassion shown to Megrahi and as an expression of thanks for his release. Others with a different view may see the display of the saltire as an insult to Scottish justice. Whatever views are held, tradition has it that the diagonal white cross on the flag represents the shape of the cross upon which St Andrew was crucified. When that dreadful act occurred, no mercy or compassion was shown to the innocent, but with Megrahi compassion was shown to the guilty. (Romans 9:15)

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