©05 Susan Davies
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[BACKGROUND: on 3 March, 2005 four Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers were investigating allegations of multiple stolen vehicles and marijuana growing near Mayerthorpe, Alberta, Canada when they were gunned down by James Roszko. Roszko had a reputation in the area for flaunting Canada's strict gun laws and other anti-social behaviour. He evaded the police when they arrived on his property, then using various manners of concealment, got back on his place and ambushed the officers, killing all four of them. Later Roszko killed himself to avoid capture. webmaster ]
In the aftermath of last week's horrific unprovoked slaying of four young RCMP officers, we are left reeling with shock, grief, disbelief and a growing anger at the middle-aged man named James Roszko who carried out this senseless act. Daily, we are bombarded by articles and letters to the editor, variously pointing fingers at what the police did incorrectly procedure-wise, what the botched gun registry program contributed to this, and how the controversial drug laws were to blame. Haile Selassie once said "Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph." It would be such a relief to be able to outline one single point of "blame". If we could put a name to the monster, we would be able to design a course of action to bring peace and closure to this unspeakable act. Unfortunately, it is never that easy.
As Christians, Jesus admonishes us Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned... "(Luke 6:36). It is not our domain to be armchair advocates, to analyze over coffee, to demonize the perpetrator while deifying the victims. So easy to say yet so unpalatable to practice.
These four young men were in the prime of their lives; one of them had only been on the job for three weeks. One was married, with a young son and another child on the way. One was recently engaged to be married. The men had everything to live for. Their families were loving, close to and proud of their sons and brothers. The communities of Mayerthorpe and Whitecourt had taken these men into their hearts and their homes. The First Nations reserves in the area had special respect and fondness for two of the officers who gave of their time and resources to set up sports programs for their children, and who spent time over coffee with individual members on the reserves, learning their ways. They have been called 'heroes', and definitely seem to fit Arthur Ashe's definition of a 'hero' "True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others, at whatever cost.
On Thursday, March 10, 2005, a memorial service was held for the officers in the Butterdome on the University of Alberta campus. Tens of thousands of RCMP and city police forces and emergency services personnel literally filled the facility. From the limited public seating, up in the highest levels of the Butterdome, I looked down over the virtual sea of red serge below me, and for the first time in my life realized that there aren't just 30 or 100 or 500 RCMP officers there are tens of thousands of them spread across Canada, all of them pursuing a career that carries a known quotient of danger with it, all of them swearing an oath to protect the rest of us. The brotherhood between these men and women is a palpable bond attested to by the troops who flew here from New York and Miami to take part in the service, as well as from Vancouver to Atlantic Canada.
On Saturday the last of the four funerals will be held. The local memorial services and vigils are over, and inevitably some other horror will become the talk of the day in the newspapers. What we will be left with then is the lasting question of "Why" and "How" could this have happened. It is during this period that we are most vulnerable to what C.S. Lewis wrote in The Case for Christianity : "This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people."
James Roszko is a human being, someone's son, brother, cousin, uncle, nephew. He had many problems, of that we can be sure. He had a violent hatred for the police and blamed them for all of his antisocial ways. He was a known pedophile and had many other charges against him, both criminal and civil. He terrorized two towns for in excess of 20 years. We will never know what went wrong, or at what point things went wrong in his life. In the writings of Buddha, it is stated that "It is a man's own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways." James made a habit of laying his problems at the feet of other people, apparently unable to see or acknowledge his own responsibility.
What would Jesus have said to James Roszko? Would He have stood before James and told him that he still had a chance at salvation if he repented and gave his life to Christ? I believe he would have done that. I believe he would have recognized the evil that lurked inside of James and cast that devil out, as He did for the two possessed men in Gadarenes. If Jesus can be this gracious and merciful, is it not our duty to find such grace and mercy within ourselves?
I have spent the last two years learning the art of forgiveness. Having to forgive several people who had a huge negative impact on my life for many, many years, was a tough thing to deal with. Grace and mercy were not strong points for me. There was something very self-satisfying in remaining a victim of these people, or so I thought. When I mastered the ability to forgive, however, it was like having the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. I was able to hear God speak for the first time. I had always known He was in my life but I had never heard his voice or felt his touch, and now I know that it was my inability to forgive that I had to overcome before he would reveal His presence to me.
Let us find it in our hearts to forgive James Roszko. His father and siblings are walking in shame of him; his burial was private and unheralded; unattended by most of his family members. His personal effects are being combed over by a team of strangers; every facet of his private life will be revealed eventually in some tabloid newspaper. I do not believe that God would continue James' punishment into eternity, but rather that he would forgive in the largeness of His love. During my struggle with forgiveness I came across these words of Paul Boese, and they seem particularly timely now
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