Lent Day 26: Luke 17-18

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On 15th April 1989, thousands of football fans descended upon Sheffield for the FA Cup semi final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday’s ground, Hillsborough.

At 3.06pm, just six minutes after kick off, the game was stopped when it became clear that something had gone horribly wrong at the Leppings Lane end of the ground, where the Liverpool fans were housed. A gate has been opened by police, who had lost control outside the ground, and fans poured into the already over capacity central pen, crushing those inside which the weight of thousands of bodies.

96 people never made it home.

In the intervening years, the families of the 96 who died at Hillsborough, plus those who were at the game and survived,  have endured smears of violence and drunkenness from politicians, police and media (particularly the Sun newspaper, which is still not sold in many Liverpool shops). They have seen inquests and enquiries which have said that the disaster was an accident with little or no culpability apportioned. A coroner’s inquest refused to see evidence from after 3.15 on the day as he said there was no chance of survival for any of the fatalities beyond that point; despite witness statements to the contrary.

Incompetence, cover ups and turning a blind eye from those who were meant to protect the victims and their families. But no justice.

The families of the 96 never gave up, though. In September 2012, over 23 years after the disaster, the Hillsborough Independent Panel concluded that the fans were in no way responsible for the disaster. Multiple failures by the emergency services caused it, followed by a co-ordinated police cover-up.

After 23 years, the truth was out. But there was one thing missing.

Justice.

On 31 March, this Monday, a new coroner’s inquest opened. The verdicts of accidental death from the original inquest had been quashed and the evidence, all of it this time, is to be examined again.

The families never gave up. They pushed and harassed and campaigned and shouted and pleaded and argued until, finally, the chance for justice was given to them.

Jesus tells a similar story to this of an old woman demanding justice. She, too, only gets is after keeping on at the judge for years until he gives in, tired of her and worried about how far she will go.

In both cases an unjust system still gives justice. As Jesus asks, though,

“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:7-8 NIV)

God is just and he will grant justice. His justice may not involve jails or fines, but it will involve redemption and punishment. It’s not revenge, but the opportunity to be saved and justified and changed for the better. That is true justice.

He also tells of the tax collector who comes before God, praying for forgiveness because he is a sinful man. This is God’s justice. The man has realised what he has done and it is breaking him, but he still has the chance to ask God for forgiveness, to repent, to change. Surely a bad person changing for the better is more amazing justice than our revenge-filled notion of it?

Too often, when we talk of justice we actually mean retribution. We want to see people punished harshly to quench our righteous anger at the terrible thing they’ve done. You only need to look at the papers, TV news or Facebook to see that. Whenever a particularly nasty crime happens there are immediate calls for the death penalty, or deportation, or chemical castration, or beatings.

That’s not justice. Justice isn’t punishment for revenge or anger. It’s being held accountable for your actions and paying the consequences, but still having the chance to repent, change and be accepted.

The Hillsborough families aren’t asking for revenge, just for blame and innocence to be properly apportioned. For sincere apologies to be made. For mistakes to be accepted, admitted and learned from. That is justice.

Justice for the 96.

John Alfred Anderson (62)
Colin Mark Ashcroft (19)
James Gary Aspinall (18)
Kester Roger Marcus Ball (16)
Gerard Bernard Patrick Baron (67)
Simon Bell (17)
Barry Sidney Bennett (26)
David John Benson (22)
David William Birtle (22)
Tony Bland (22)
Paul David Brady (21)
Andrew Mark Brookes (26)
Carl Brown (18)
David Steven Brown (25)
Henry Thomas Burke (47)
Peter Andrew Burkett (24)
Paul William Carlile (19)
Raymond Thomas Chapman (50)
Gary Christopher Church (19)
Joseph Clark (29)
Paul Clark (18)
Gary Collins (22)
Stephen Paul Copoc (20)
Tracey Elizabeth Cox (23)
James Philip Delaney (19)
Christopher Barry Devonside (18)
Christopher Edwards (29)
Vincent Michael Fitzsimmons (34)
Thomas Steven Fox (21)
Jon-Paul Gilhooley (10)
Barry Glover (27)
Ian Thomas Glover (20)
Derrick George Godwin (24)
Roy Harry Hamilton (34)
Philip Hammond (14)
Eric Hankin (33)
Gary Harrison (27)
Stephen Francis Harrison (31)
Peter Andrew Harrison (15)
David Hawley (39)
James Robert Hennessy (29)
Paul Anthony Hewitson (26)
Carl Darren Hewitt (17)
Nicholas Michael Hewitt (16)
Sarah Louise Hicks (19)
Victoria Jane Hicks (15)
Gordon Rodney Horn (20)
Arthur Horrocks (41)
Thomas Howard (39)
Thomas Anthony Howard (14)
Eric George Hughes (42)
Alan Johnston (29)
Christine Anne Jones (27)
Gary Philip Jones (18)
Richard Jones (25)
Nicholas Peter Joynes (27)
Anthony Peter Kelly (29)
Michael David Kelly (38)
Carl David Lewis (18)
David William Mather (19)
Brian Christopher Mathews (38)
Francis Joseph McAllister (27)
John McBrien (18)
Marian Hazel McCabe (21)
Joseph Daniel McCarthy (21)
Peter McDonnell (21)
Alan McGlone (28)
Keith McGrath (17)
Paul Brian Murray (14)
Lee Nicol (14)
Stephen Francis O’Neill (17)
Jonathon Owens (18)
William Roy Pemberton (23)
Carl William Rimmer (21)
David George Rimmer (38)
Graham John Roberts (24)
Steven Joseph Robinson (17)
Henry Charles Rogers (17)
Colin Andrew Hugh William Sefton (23)
Inger Shah (38)
Paula Ann Smith (26)
Adam Edward Spearritt (14)
Philip John Steele (15)
David Leonard Thomas (23)
Patrick John Thompson (35)
Peter Reuben Thompson (30)
Stuart Paul William Thompson (17)
Peter Francis Tootle (21)
Christopher James Traynor (26)
Martin Kevin Traynor (16)
Kevin Tyrrell (15)
Colin Wafer (19)
Ian David Whelan (19)
Martin Kenneth Wild (29)
Kevin Daniel Williams (15)
Graham John Wright (17)
Rest in Peace

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