Thought for the Day - Rhidian Brook - 13/09/2012
Certain appalling events in history stay with us in the form of particular images and in the case of the Hillsborough disaster the image that sticks in my mind is that of fans being pulled to the safety of the upper tier by the people above and of a man on the pitch weeping over his stricken friend.
It is 23 years since 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death inside the Sheffield Wednesday stadium at the beginning of the FA Cup semi final. But only now, with the release of previously unseen government papers and the report by the Hillsborough Independent Panel, do we know what really happened that day.
The report demonstrates a shameful litany of human error, some of it unwitting, some of it deliberate. But what has been most shocking is the revelation that the police and other emergency services made ‘strenuous attempts’ to cover up their mistakes and deflect the blame for the disaster onto the innocent fans.
The reaction has been understandably emphatic, ranging from the Prime Minister in Parliament apologising on behalf of the nation for the failure of successive governments to see justice done, to many people vehemently calling for retribution. What is profoundly impressive is the reaction of the actual families involved.
For 23 years they have been seeking justice. Many of them parents who’ve lost children and had to suffer their reputations being deliberately impugned. And yet, as the chair of the panel, James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, said: these families have had to live with an open wound for all this time, and still they have shown a dignified determination to get to the truth.
For them this has not been about retribution; it’s been about responsibility. An attitude epitomised by Margaret Aspinall, Chairwoman of the Hillsborough Families Support Group (whose son James died that day) when she said of the report: ‘This is what the families and the fans have been fighting for 23 years. Without the truth, you cannot grieve and where there is deceit, you get no justice.’
The human incapacity to admit wrong, our quickness to blame others and cover up, lies at the very heart of this and all human tragedy. It was fear of admitting mistakes that compounded the lie that led to innocents dying and then being blamed for their own deaths. It’s a force that propels a thousand injustices. It can only be countered by some mechanism that involves a revealing of wrongdoing, confession, and the hope of forgiveness.
The truth sets you free but liberation does not come without pain. Jesus, before his own death where he was wounded and crushed, told his disciples that even though they would suffer they would not be left alone with their tears. Something with the heart of this gospel is still sung on the terraces of Liverpool FC to this day: ‘Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart. And you’ll never walk alone.’
Available since: Thu 13 Sep 2012
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