Driving into Manchester 10 days ago to drop off my stuff turned out to be a very eventful journey. My brother and I were riveted to the radio listening to the findings Independent Hillsborough report (click here). Many friends were involved in the crush at that Liverpool match in 1989, but thankfully no close friends were among the 96 who died, although we knew some of the victims. As has been known on Merseyside for a long while, but now thankfully by the rest of the world, the subsequent smearing of the fans could well be the biggest cover up in British history lead by South Yorkshire Police. However as is often the case, out of tragedy and suffering some good has come, including a solidarity with other fans, the beautiful gestures by United at Anfield on Sunday and dignified leadership by Alex Ferguson. So with mixed and strong emotions, my twin brother (an Evertonian) and I arrived in Manchester. The radio coverage was riveting but one thing that distracted our attention was driving past a huge video screen that was offering a £50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a man called Dale Cregan.
Three days later this man, whose face seemed to be all over Manchester, shot dead two unarmed policewomen and then walked into a police station to give himself up. Acts of wanton destruction and evil like this are always disorienting and confusing. After a week of anger towards the police for the Hillsborough cover-up, these killings put policing back into perspective. It is unprecedented for two police women to be killed, and the worst police deaths since the 60’s. But again amidst all the shock, healing started to happen from an unusual source. The Chief Constable of the Greater Manchester Police in an interview talked about how his faith was helping him. This is what Sir Peter Fahy, a Catholic, said
“I think a lot of us feel passionately that policing is a vocation. It is a calling. I feel that in terms of my own faith but I know a lot of officers that don’t have a faith, but feel exactly the same – that it is a vocation, that it’s not just a job and I think that’s almost what you go back to in difficult times and difficult circumstances that how unfair something may feel, how inadequate you may feel you do actually rely on that you’re doing your best, and that this is your vocation. The chance for me personally to be able to, every day, to have bit of quiet time, pray, think about your own values, your own sense of vocation, and to examine your own conscience I think is really, really important…… For me personally and a lot of people of faith, prayer is important… you do often feel so helpless, so praying for the dead officers, praying for their families, becomes your own reaction, your own expression of hope really for them, at a time of great need.”
Very powerful words – particularly at a time when there strong pressures to silence the religious voice in the public sphere, or to portray faith as being the realm of bigots and fundamentalists. It also made me think – would the interview have been picked up elsewhere in the country or is this a fruit of the BBC relocation to Salford? There is much to reflect on what he said about the healing power of prayer, but maybe more importantly what he also said about examining your conscience. If only more of the South Yorkshire Police had engaged in that activity more regularly.