Date: 15 December 2003
Patty Fawkner SGS, Director of Uniya, comments
on the treatment of Saddam Hussein
Like millions of others I was curious to catch sight of a captured
Saddam Hussein. And I was not disappointed. The figure of a disheveled,
bearded Saddam, his head being inspected (for lice?) by a gloved
US medico was sensational television. The images satisfied my curiosity
but caused me pause.
Captured in a hole in the ground, Saddam looked for everything
like a vulnerable old man rather than the arrogant and powerful
tyrant we were used to seeing. And that's the point. Before any
other words we use to describe Saddam, he is first and foremost
a human being, and as such is worthy of our respect.
There is no more basic principle in the Catholic social vision,
based on the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel, than the dignity of
the human person. It's the bedrock issue, the place where the church
and Christians stand when addressing questions of justice in the
This fundamental principle is grounded in the idea that the person
is sacred, made in the image of God. The human person is the clearest
reflection of God among us.
Yes, we know that Saddam failed utterly to honour this same principle
of human dignity. We acknowledge the acute suffering he visited
on his own people. And there may be some value in detailing, as
the Prime Minister John Howard has suggested, what Saddam did, the
'slaughter by slaughter, death by death, so that the world understands
what kind of man he was'. Yet, none of this disqualifies him from
receiving from his captors and us our deepest respect, simply because
he is a human being.
Would not the evil of Saddam's actions be highlighted if, rather
than an eye for an eye, he was accorded respect, courtesy, and a
just and fair trial. He must be brought to account. All fair thinking
people would concur. But demeaning television images and cries from
politicians and community leaders calling for the death penalty,
demean us rather than him.
Every person, even the cruel tyrant Saddam Hussein, is a reflection
of the sacred and is worthy of respect.
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