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Thought for the Day - Rt Rev Lord Harries of Pentregarth

Rt Rev Lord Harries of Pentregarth

Good morning. “Finally we can pull the curtain on Gadaffi’s crimes”, said the Libyan Prime Minister immediately after Gadaffi’s death was confirmed, words echoed by many people including our own Prime Minister. Personally I am sorry he has not been brought to trial at the International Criminal Court where we could have heard the full list of his crimes, but also his defence. For absolutely fundamental to an international action like this, fully supported by the United Nations, is that it is undertaken in the name of justice. However different the scale of the force used, the only proper analogy is with a police action. A police action is carried out to bring people to trial-but of course I fully accept that a criminal or a tyrant may very well be shot in the course of doing this, and that can be just as well, if there is no alternative. If there was no alternative to the killing Gadaffi, the point is the same, the action has validity if it is in the name of genuine justice.

One of the extraordinary features of us human beings is how deep the desire for fairness goes. Parents often hear a cry from their children “It's not fair”. Parents sometimes reply “Well life isn’t fair”. Indeed it is not. But the point is that we feel it ought to be, and that we ought to try to make it as fair as possible. If a child at school is being punished unfairly, others in the class will protest. If someone is getting away with a wrong, we feel they ought to be caught and admonished. Those childhood feelings are no different from the moral realm we inhabit as adults. However unjust life is, we sense an obligation to do what we can to make it more just, and that includes bringing home to criminals and tyrants the terrible consequences of their deeds.

The problem of course is that all our human attempts to bring about justice are flawed and partial, for it has to be carried out by frail, and as Christians would say, sinful human beings. So, all the major religions of the world would want to add something else to our very imperfect attempts to bring about a just order. The great cry running through the Hebrew scriptures is that this world is grossly unjust but that that God will reveal a true justice at the end-so when, when, will God act in that way to put right all that is wrong? Jews, Christians and Muslims have never lost that hope of an ultimate justice. Meanwhile we have to do the best we can. Even in this flawed world we can obtain a relative justice-and all those who suffered or are still suffering as a result of Gadaffi’s 42 year regime will believe that least a step towards this has been taken by the ending of it.

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