Perhaps the Today programme will create one of their lists by asking people to vote for the most wicked person of our time. I would expect Robert Mugabe and Osama Bin Laden to be hot contestants. Yet I saw a photograph of Mugabe receiving Holy Communion during his recent Vatican visit. I notice that Fr Alexander Lucie-Smith blogged at the Catholic Herald an article arguing that the Vatican had no choice and that singling out one head of state as persona non grata would cause a troublesome precedent. Perhaps he is right, but I am left wondering just what a head of state would have to do in order to be unwelcome at the Vatican. Perhaps Berlusconi accompanied by dancing girls?
Osama Ben Laden was scarcely a head of state, but if he was our enemy how does loving our enemies fit into the question?
I find that when I see him as a truly wicked man that what I really mean is that I would have to have been truly wicked to behave as he did. But let’s imagine how he might have seen it.
“My people, the Muslims, have been hated and persecuted by the West throughout history. In the early Middle Ages we were the most advanced and civilised people in the world, yet the West crushed us by sheer brute force. And they continued to attack and slander us throughout the ages. In modern times attacks have been too many to count. There have been forced imprisonment of people who were not even tried in court. There has been much torture although it has been against the stated principles of the West. And don’t forget that it was the West who righteously allowed the Jews to set up a subsidised state in Arab land, and who have supported it ever since. If they wanted to be generous why didn’t they offer, say, California or Wales, instead of giving away someone else’s country?
You attack terrorism and suicide bombers but this is sheer hypocrisy. We are not, and perhaps never will be, in a position to mount a military machine to protect our cause. So we fight, as minorities have always had to do, through guerilla warfare. Of course civilians have often been harmed and many of the actions of our war have been directed at them. But count the civilian deaths in Berlin and Hamburg and Dresden. One blanket-bombing raid on one night would account for far more civilian deaths than any that Al Qaeda have caused. Why was it right for you and wrong for us?
Suicide bombers, so what? At least they were ready to sacrifice their lives where your gangster aircrews scooted back to wash the blood off their hands in the safety of their home base. Didn’t your philosopher, Pascal, say that he believed witnesses who had their throats cut?”
You may well think that these excuses are biassed self-serving nonsense. You may share my view that Bin Laden was responsible for acts of extreme evil. But just ask yourself whether it is at all possible that Bin Laden really, and sincerely, thought in the way that I have described, or in some way like it. And, even if he didn’t, remember the old verse “Betwixt the stirrup and the ground, is mercy sought and mercy found.” All of which is why I pray for his soul.