[Here, courtesy of Dr Jim Swire, is the text of the address that he delivered during Saturday’s Lockerbie memorial service in Westminster Abbey:]
In ‘UK Families-Flight 103’ we are free to be ourselves, here’s my individual contribution.
Lockerbie was a revenge attack, but no philosophy can justify the slaughter of innocent people. In the West we counter the threat of terrorism though intelligence gathering, and the bringing to justice of those who hate. Please pray for all who do this desperate work for us.
In our family Flora was our beautiful vivacious first born of three wonderful children. She had been on her way to spend Christmas with her American Jewish boyfriend. They had both become outstanding young medical scientists invited to their own research projects at our premier neurological institute at Queen’s Square in London where they met. Through him she had met with Rabbi Albert Friedlander: he called her a great seeker after truth.
We are the lucky ones, in the UK and USA. Not only do we live in two of the most free and safe countries in the world, but we relatives also had the joy of living with those we loved until their untimely deaths. It was Abraham Lincoln who at Gettysburg proclaimed a new birth of freedom for the people of the United States.
Here, Saint Thomas a Becket born on this day, but 700 years before Lincoln, was slaughtered in Canterbury Cathedral for upholding the Church against his King. I claim Habeas Corpus as I say in this ancient Abbey that I do not believe that our Governments have told us all the truth they know about this terrible tragedy.
Recently in a cold suburban car park in Sweden with the snow beginning to fall, I was watching a small town house. All day long the curtains were drawn shut and the blinds down. Inside was a man who has spent his whole life as a terrorist. I believe he played a key role in the Lockerbie atrocity. Too afraid to answer the bell himself, he sent his wife to an upstairs window to threaten.
How would I feel in meeting one of those deeply involved: what were the roots of his hatred, could one forgive? Nelson Mandela made forgiveness look easy. But even a Truth and Reconciliation commission cannot work unless first the truth is known.
When I first met the late Baset al Megrahi face to face in Greenock prison, though he was a practising Muslim, he had bought me a Christmas card in the prison shop; in it he had written “Dr Swire and family, please pray for me and my family”.
He died my friend. Over Christmas, if you pray, please pray for his innocent family, but also for all those who wrestle with hatred, that they may be healed by God’s love. Please pray also that we who will sit down at a Christmas table with chairs for ever empty may find peace.