Innocent victims can’t be expected to forgive unrepentant terrorists: ‘The Lord hates hands that shed innocent blood’

Rev Peter McIntyre of Clogher Valley Free Presbyterian Church gives a presentation to a group of victims and survivors at South East Fermanagh Foundation, Lisnaskea, on January 10
Rev Peter McIntyre of Clogher Valley Free Presbyterian Church gives a presentation to a group of victims and survivors at South East Fermanagh Foundation, Lisnaskea, on January 10

This is a summary of a presentation given to a group of victims and survivors at South East Fermanagh Foundation, Lisnaskea, on January 10 by Rev Peter McIntyre:

My interest in the victims and survivors of Northern Ireland’s Troubles stems not from a political or philosophical perspective but my experiences as a pastor.

Rev Peter McIntyre of Clogher Valley Free Presbyterian Church, centre, with Eric Brown (South East Fermanagh Foundation Chairman)  and Kenny Donaldson (SEFF's Director of Services) at SEFF, Lisnaskea, on January 10, when he gave a presentation to victims and survivors

Rev Peter McIntyre of Clogher Valley Free Presbyterian Church, centre, with Eric Brown (South East Fermanagh Foundation Chairman) and Kenny Donaldson (SEFF's Director of Services) at SEFF, Lisnaskea, on January 10, when he gave a presentation to victims and survivors

As a young theological student providing pastoral assistance I witnessed the heart break of Ulster’s Troubles when visiting a widow and her little children, whose husband and father had been taken away by the gunman’s bullet.

The years have rolled on but still the hurt lingers, the voice of the victim continues to resonate and it seems that the past is never far away. It is the past that defines our present and it is only by addressing the past, in the present, that we can move forward with hope and optimism for the future.

The Bible teaches us that God is just, therefore He has provided the principle of justice for us as His creatures. Society cannot function without the application of justice to everyday life. The demand and cry for justice is one of the most natural expectations that defines the very concept of civilisation.

God is characterised not only as being just but forgiving. His forgiveness, however, is not unconditional but comes at a price. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, offered Himself to satisfy the justice of God for us but taking our punishment.

There is an expectation that the Christian must be one who exercises repentance and turns from sin. Christ spoke of repenting or perishing.

The government continues to have a moral as well as a legislative duty, to pursue the perpetrators of terrorist crime, regardless of the time that has elapsed.

Saint Paul spoke of the civil power wielding the sword and being a terror to evil works. The victims should be supported not denounced in their cry for justice.

The terrorist, whether loyalist or republican, must face the wrongs of the past and in so doing address their victims’ concerns.

Sinn Fein must be singled out for special criticism because they have a mandate which entitles them to seats at the executive table.

Whether it is expressing pride in the “freedom struggle” or refusing to condemn the Enniskillen bomb, there continues to be a justification of murder and a contempt for the victims and survivors.

Is it too much to expect a party of government to unreservedly condemn murder and the use of violence to achieve a political goal?

The innocent victim of terrorism must not be expected to forgive the unrepentant terrorist who continues the condone the horrors of the past. It is possible for the victim and survivor to experience peace without exercising forgiveness.

Isaiah the great Hebrew prophet, wrote about being healed by Christ’s stripes and pointed to God achieving the impossible by healing the broken hearted. Peace alone is found through faith in Christ who suffered for our sins that we might have rest.

We are constantly aware that we live in a broken world where injustice is a sad reality. Addressing sophisticated and sceptical Athens 2,000 years ago, Saint Paul presented a resurrected Christ who would return to the world as the judge of all – the corrector of every injustice. As the Kingsmills’ memorial solemnly declares; “The Lord hates hands that shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 18:17)

• Rev Peter McIntyre is minister of Clogher Valley Free Presbyterian Church