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Conditional Compassion: Where do you draw the line?

The release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison has caused me to ponder the limits of human compassion.

Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was released under a Scottish compassion law due to a terminal illness. Rather than being applauded for their mercy, the Scots are facing immense ridicule from the world community.

While listening to the radio news coverage, I was struck by the anger and sorrow in the voices of the family members of Pan Am Flight 103 victims as they relived that tragic day. 270 people were killed. The radio talk show hosts pointed out that the bomber didn’t show any compassion when he bombed Pan Am Flight 103, so why should we show him compassion now?

Christ teaches us to have compassion and mercy.

This led me to the questions:

  • Under what circumstances is it acceptable for our compassion and mercy to be conditional?
  • What circumstances would make it moral to require a dying man live out the last months of his life in prison?

When it serves the greater good.
Sure, he may be terminally ill, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t commit another heinous act in the short time he has left. If anything, he has even less to lose now, knowing that he is on his death bed. I’m not sure what level of activity his illness permits, but he seemed fine (jolly even) when walking off the plane into his home country.

We, as human beings, have a moral and social responsibility to act in ways that will respect and preserve life. Setting an unremorseful killer loose on the world hardly qualifies. I applaud the Scots for standing up for their values, but definitely question their motives and whether what they did was in the best interests of humanity.


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