25 August 2009

Questionable release

(Beijing, Scotland, CIA tapes)

China has released two prominent legal activists after representations from the US. The activists are seen as important to the development of rule of law and public policy discussion of problems in Tibet and Xinjiang.

The unexpected release of Ilham Tohti, a Uighur economist and commentator, Xu Zhiyong, a public interest lawyer, and his assistant Zhuang Lu, was met with relief by human rights activists after they had been swept up in a wide political security crackdown.

Over in Scotland, the news about the release of Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, met questioning by foreign press. As a result, Scotland's Parliament has been recalled to discuss the situation. The Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, is expected to defend the decision to free the only man convicted of the 1988 atrocity, which killed 270 people.

Last week he granted compassionate release to the terminally ill Libyan who had served eight years of a life sentence.

Britain is facing growing criticism from many countries, including the US, with its highest military officer saying he was appalled by the decision. Admiral Mike Mullen told CNN that the release of Megrahi was ''obviously a political decision. I was appalled by the decision''.

Sen Joe Lieberman pointed to shocking suggestions by the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, his son, Seif, and the head of the Libyan-British Business Council that the decision was influenced by Britain's interest in exploring for oil in Libya. The director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, has accused Mr MacAskill of making a mockery of the rule of law and giving comfort to terrorists.

But the US has its own problems with questionable releases. CIA interrogators threatened an al Qaeda prisoner with a gun and an electric drill to try to scare him into giving up information, according to a long-concealed inspector-general's report made public on Monday.

The gun and drill were used in two separate interrogation sessions against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, one of the sources said. Al-Nashiri is accused of plotting the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which left 17 U.S. sailors dead. A federal judge in New York ordered a redacted version of the report released Monday as part of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU. Findings included threatening the murder of a child and the rape of a mother to suspects if they did not cooperate.

Wow, this is revelatory. And shocking. Questionable releases, whether Chinese activists or informing and guilt-bringing reporting or bombers who murdered hundreds of Scottish (and others) citizens…they bring a sense of right and wrong, don’t they?

We think out loud about our own desires and what is right in any situation. And often, if we are honest, we don’t know what we would do if we had the power to adjust things.

Imagine, or remember, some of the wrongs you’ve committed. Imagine someone coming to you and asking if you would like to be freed from the consequences of the wrongs. And then imagine that this person actually released you from the guilt, from the pains, from the suffering of the wrongs you had done.

What would you feel? Tremendous freedom; great satisfaction; awesome pleasure – you would feel many of these, wouldn’t you? You’d jump for joy. You’d at least smile as you walked out of the courtroom or the field or the basement of the wrongs in which you’d been living.

But how would others feel? How would those feel whom you had wronged? How would those affected by your behavior feel in light of the release you had just experienced?

The Jewish new year is fast approaching. In Sydney we will have a service on Friday night, 18 September, to remember and reflect. And to announce to everyone who attends, that God has done the most believable thing—He has paid your penalty and freed you from your sin. He has given you release from the guilt of your sin and made you alive with Him. And all because of Y’shua, the Just One who knows all you have ever done, and yet poured out His blood on the earth to save you from those sins. Awesome pleasure, and yet, undeserving... maybe a bit of guilt about receiving such an offer. How do you feel about this?

Some will say this release is questionable. Some will mock what God has done. But He did it nonetheless. The resultant reality is our freedom. Which would you rather have: the question or the answer?

I’ll choose the answer: freedom in believing in Y’shua. This works for now, for 18 September, for 2009, and into forever.