Thought for the Day - 14/02/2014 - Bishop Richard Harries

Good morning. It is amazing to think that it is nearly 25 years now since the Hillsborough tragedy left 96 dead and 766 injured in the worst stadium disaster in British history. As we know the families were never happy with the official story, but it was only after 23 years with the report of an independent panel that the real truth of what caused the crush began to emerge, with evidence that the original account was skewed.

On Wednesday another stage was reached when the Home Secretary reported to parliament on where these enquiries have now got to. In addition to stating that fresh inquests on the deaths would begin next month she said around 400 witnesses have made requests to the Independent Police Complaints Commission to see their original statements.. In addition, the IPCC has recovered around 2,500 police pocket notebooks. These pocket books had not been made available to previous investigations and are now being analysed.. The IPCC has also conducted further analysis of the 242 police accounts now believed to have been amended.

What happened at Hillsborough was a terrible tragedy and what resulted afterwards, a shaming story. But also remarkable is the determination of the families over so many years to get the truth revealed, and the willingness of successive governments to respond by setting up the biggest ever enquiry into the police. It is a time consuming, expensive business, but it is a strength of our society, and the police at their best, that we believe the truth demands it.

It is a mysterious, marvellous thing-this desire for the truth, not just for the sake of justice, but in science, and every area of human knowledge and endeavour. “The truth will set you free”, said Jesus, and however unpalatable the truth might be, whether about an institution, a society or ourselves, its recognition can have a liberating effect.

The remarkable French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil once wrote
Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth.
But then she added,
If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms.
That was her experience, but it is clearly not everyone’s for it leads some to agnosticism or atheism - but wherever it leads, truth in all its forms continues to have this strange, compelling effect upon us both as individuals and as a society. Indeed public life depends on the assumption that the truth is being told, which is why lying to parliament, or falsifying evidence, have always rightly been regarded as such serious offences.

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