This Sunday will be the 25th Anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence who was racially attacked and murdered by five youths in London in 1993. The way the police handled Stephen’s death led to such outrage that it led to inquiries which revealed ‘institutional racism’in the Metropolitan police of the day. The original case against the youths involved was handled with incompetence at every level and had it not been for aprivate prosecution brought by Stephen’s parents these deficiencies and the in-bred racism within the Met would never have come into the public arena. Stephen’s parents Neville and Doreen have worked untiringly for the last 25 years for justice for their son and have also devoted their lives to fight against racism and violence on the streets of the capital city. Doreen was eventually honoured as a Baroness while Neville now 76 years of age still visits schools, colleges and youth groups speaking to young people of the dangers and risks of carrying weapons.
Twenty-five years later the personal loss of Neville and Doreen Lawrence has led both parents to reflect on their future. For Doreen the time has come to recognise that no more can be done in terms of any future prosecutions. For Neville it has become the time to forgive. While being interviewed on TV last week Nevillepubliclyforgavethosewho had murdered his son, recognising that while this was the hardest decision of his life it had to be made if ever he was to find peace and to live fully his deeply held Christian faith.
The depths of a father’s loss and pain in such tragic circumstances can never be fully realised by those of us who have, and pray never will, have to deal with such heart-breaking loss. His decision to forgive is the way that Neville Lawrence has chosen after 25 years of untold pain and grieving which he now feels must change. As a Christian hefollows the example of Jesus who from the agony of Calvary’s cross declared ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’. Those who murdered Stephen Lawrence may never fully understand and even be dismissive of such an act of grace and reconciliation by a man who could be totally justified in continued anger and condemnation against those who cruelly murdered his son. He has, however, chosen to forgive, not easy and yet once made has brought him an indwelling peace. There is, of course, something much more here than forgiveness towards those who murdered his son. There is a declaration that racism,violence and festering anger will not have the final word. Neville Lawrence has shown us the better way.