Forgiveness and the Lockerbie bomber

A Christian Science perspective.

By , News editor for the Christian Science magazines

Substantial controversy has swirled around the decision by Scottish justice Kenny MacAskill to release convicted Lockerbie bomber Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds, because he is believed to have only months to live. He was imprisoned for the 1988 destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland.

MacAskill's recent statement before the Scottish Parliament (Aug. 24) was another attempt to explain his motives for freeing Mr. Megrahi. Whether he should have been released or not is a question for elsewhere. No doubt experts in the law and politics of the issue will have much to chew on regarding the decision. But there were a few statements in his remarks that seem to call for prayer. Regarding the crime, he said: "The pain and suffering will remain forever. Some hurt can never heal, some scars can never fade. Those who have been bereaved cannot be expected to forget, let alone forgive."

This is certainly one point of view regarding sorrow and grief, and a number of those who lost loved ones in the explosion over Lockerbie seem to agree with that outlook. There is a more healing alternative, however, and it's here that our prayers can support restoration and peace.

The Bible speaks in many places of the importance of mercy and forgiveness as qualities of God: "Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies" (Ps. 103:3, 4).

When one is deeply grieving, the thought of "tender mercies" may seem almost laughable. One may harden one's heart against the grief so much that mercy seems frozen out of the picture. But prayer can claim the presence of the Christ, the spiritual message of God's love for the man and woman of His creating. It can affirm the impossibility of Christ ever really being frozen out. Even one who is so embittered that he or she refuses to see Christ's tender mercies cannot escape God's love. They will be there – whether in the touch of a friend, the beauty of a flower, or perhaps even the comfort of feeling close to the one who has gone on. They are proof of Christ's presence, providing hope and strength.

These tender mercies will also help those lost to us through the tragedy, because to God they have never been lost. As Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, put it, "The depth, breadth, height, might, majesty, and glory of infinite Love fill all space.... Human language can repeat only an infinitesimal part of what exists" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 520). And eternal Love also fills all that we conceive of as time, including those moments in which tragedies take place.

It's fair to ask, "If God was there, why didn't He stop the explosion from happening?" Divine Love, filling all space and time, never could allow, never has allowed, destruction of the beings He creates. Love impels humanity's discovery of this fact through spiritual awakening. As the Apostle Paul said, "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (I Cor. 13:12).

In essence, when these experiences come into the news or even into our lives, we can pray for understanding not of the evil, but of divine Love which was present for us, for our loved ones, for others involved. To ask this question of God, to seek to know Him better, does bring light. Sometimes it brings a sense of revelation. But more important, it brings our thoughts into line with the healing Christ, whose purpose is always to reveal the reality of everyone's unbreakable link with God.

Each of us, in our prayers for those affected by the Lockerbie bombing – including government officials in Scotland – can claim the right to experience God's tender mercies, to grow and to learn under Christ's tutelage, and to experience some aspect of God's specific love for all concerned. Giving up tightly held sorrow or facing the criticism of grieving relatives and angry politicians is not an easy task. However, the powerful comfort that makes the journey to healing possible is that Christ's tender mercies are with each one, every step of the way.

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