Thought for the Day - Rev Roy Jenkins

In a less dramatic parliamentary week, a fulsome apology from a government minister might have attracted rather more attention. But with fresh revelations by the hour about the activities of a certain media empire, many might have missed the defence secretary’s statement exonerating the two pilots in the Mull of Kintyre helicopter crash.

Seventeen years on, it was a most welcome moment for their families. They’d campaigned alongside many others for the overturn of the Ministry of Defence verdict which had held the men responsible for the deaths of the 29 people on board.

I was impressed by the reported comment of the brother of one of the pilots. His father had died six years ago, and in his last words he’d urged him to keep fighting. ‘He maintained that justice had no expiry date,’ he said.

It’s a conviction shared by many who insist that they or their loved ones have been seriously wronged. In some cases, they’ve been behind bars for many years, their reputations shredded, careers ended, marriages lost, because false evidence has been believed. Battling with snail-like legal processes, and with odds apparently stacked against them, the temptation to abandon an unequal fight can be huge. Yet they persist because they have good names to redeem, and because they too believe that justice has no expiry date – however long it takes to get the truth into the open.

And those who take up such cases do so convinced that nice people and nasty people alike have a right to expect fair treatment before the law, and not least when it’s inconvenient.

They keep going because with or without religious faith, they share a vision which the Bible presents of a world ruled with justice and fairness, where individuals have inherent dignity as human beings, and rights which deserve to be respected.

It’s a vision for the long haul. William Wilberforce, key figure in the 19th century battles against the slave trade, told his fellow-campaigners: ‘Our motto must continue to be perseverance. And ultimately I trust the Almighty will crown our efforts with success.’ What enhances the power of those words for me is that when he wrote them, Wilberforce had already been fighting slavery for 44 years.

Perseverance offers no guarantee that we’ll live to see what we’ve worked for. The Christian faith asserts that for an end of all injustice, for the world as it was intended to be, we’ll have to wait - to look beyond anything we can now conceive, to a new order made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, we’re to get on with the job, and hope that others behind us will pursue the dream.

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