Welcome to Life in 361˚. This blog is an 'open journal' - a space where I keep notes on bits & pieces I come across day-to-day - including books and articles I've read that I feel are worth sharing, interesting pictures and photos (I'm a visual learner, you see), random musings - and anything else that happens to catch my eye or ear. It also acts as a kind of 'open experiment' in terms of developing my views and writing skills - and networking with other people of a like-mind.

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White Envelopes

This week I watched with interest, and a lingering sense of anger, as the murderers of Alan Greaves were sentenced. 

The brutal, senseless Christmas Eve attack on a community man, a man of principles, a humble family man shocked Sheffield - a city which prides itself on being relatively low in the violent crime league tables, a city which refers to itself as 'The Big Village'. Coming from Sheffield myself, it naturally hit home more than other murders (right or wrongly) as I reflected on the fact this could have been my father, my grandfather, my uncle, my neighbour...

The family of Alan Greaves sat in the gallery throughout the trial which eventually led to a 25 year sentence being handed to one young man and a 9 year sentence, for manslaughter, handed to another. The people of the city also watched via the media and, at least on some internet message boards, there were cries for harsher sentencing.

The dignified, clear response of Maureen Greaves went against such cries for what would become an act of retribution rather than a justice more-fulfilled, commenting that she welcomed the conviction and sentencing but had also forgiven them. Maureen Greaves said forgiving her husband's killers had been a laboured process rather than a singular act.

 "It seems so easy to say I've forgiven them, but it's probably one of the hardest things in my life that I've had to do and yet having done it and repeatedly seeking to do it, I've found I've benefited... I've not gone to bed with them on my mind, I've not gone around with shocking feelings over them, I've not gone over and over in my mind the replay of what happened to Alan..."

“It has to be a daily act of saying ‘I place them in your hands, God’, so that I don’t have to worry about them, I don’t have to hate them. After the massive shock and heartbreak, this was probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do, to go down the path of forgiving them... It has been a wonderful release that I have not had the burden of hatred towards them. I have to do it every day so I don’t lapse..."

It is also worth noting that one of her husband's killers tried to hand Maureen Greaves a 'letter of remorse', just before sentencing, which she has so far refused to read saying it would be 'inappropriate' after so long.

At times I find myself frustrated at the media portrayal of lives lived according to a faith - it's usually a case of reducing religious belief and practice to a spectacle, as something to provoke and to threaten or something exotic and quirky to coo at. The recent case of Channel 4's Ramadan coverage springs to mind here (see Nesrine Malik's on-point critique of this here). Yet in Maureen Greaves we see faith in its most complex, simultaneously at its rawest and most sophisticated, at its most beguiling.

In particular, Maureen Greaves offers us an example of what we, regardless of which belief system we follow, each have to do in our own lives when we feel wronged, no matter how big or small. And it is a delicately-laid uphill path, rather than an abracadabra miracle, in which justice and peace are carried by either arm.

Today I gave ministry on this theme at Meeting for Worship, talking through a recent experience - far, far less in its scale and permanence than the experience of Maureen Greaves - but nonetheless one in which I have had to walk a similar tightrope between wanting to address an issue of injustice in some way - injustice that has hurt me personally and will continue to hurt others if ignored - yet not wanting to be consumed by anger and vengeance.

This six month journey culminated in a 'crossroads moment' this week - in the form of a white envelope containing two pieces of paper competing for airtime; the charges I wanted to lay at someone's door on one versus a short statement positive statement on how good things sometimes are, and should be more, on the other. After much deliberation, and some last minute decisions, I opted for the latter - doing so having critically examined my motives, recognising the first paper was designed primarily to hurt the reader rather than help them.

These past six months have involved a struggle - an often faltering, begrudging struggle - yet also a learning curve of sorts. And on this Sunday, this traditional day of sabbath for Christians, it's a struggle I now feel I can rest from rather than continued to be burned up from the inside by. Certainly my own growing Christian faith and Quaker practice has helped reach this point.

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