“I will do right to poor as well as to rich. I will do no wrong to any man for any gift, reward or promise or for favour or hatred. I will truly and diligently execute the good laws of this Realm, and in all things well and truly behave myself in my office for the honour of the Queen and the good of her subjects…”
So intoned my friend local explorer David Hempleman-Adams as he was sworn in as High Sheriff of Wiltshire last Wednesday. What finer, or more important sentiments could there be for a politician or office-holder? I had escaped from Parliament to be at the magnificent ceremony-a bagpiper from the Royal Dragoon Guards, whose injured soldiers David had led to both North and South Poles, the explorer having cast off his polar kit and now dressed from head to toe in velveteen and silk stockings, the Lord Lieutenant, former Sheriffs and the great and the good of the County in Swindon Borough Chambers. What a great event, and how proud we in North Wiltshire can be to have our local lad as High Sheriff for the year to come. He is committed to devoting his year to young people, seeking to inspire them doubtless with tales of his derring-do, self sufficiency, leadership and endurance. Those are the aims of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, and the St John Ambulance of both of which David is also a leading light.
What a contrast with all of that hope for the future, and inspiration to our young, had been the devastation wrought by wicked, or mad young people on the streets of Brussels the previous day. What miserable self-deception, what an appalling perversion of hope to be ready to blow yourself up murdering dozens of innocent people in the hope of better things to come. What a corruption of a religion which preaches tolerance and respect; what a dereliction of the respect for the rule of law and the common good which David’s ancient oath described.
Daesh must be defeated in its Caliphate, and I welcome the recapture of Palmira, and look forward to the reconstruction of its ancient monuments, at least partly as a symbol of the triumph of good over evil. We must destroy their Command and Control structures, which the air strikes are systematically doing; and we must cut off their funding and their life-blood:oil revenues. But perhaps more important, if alongside, all of that, we must destroy their perverted, crooked, wicked ideology. The ideology of hate, of readiness to destroy life at random, of destruction of freedoms, of human rights of every kind.
Over Easter we were reminded of the blackness of evil – the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, the scourging of Pontius Pilate, the denial of St Peter and of course the Crucifixion itself on Good Friday; but then two days later we rejoiced at the triumph of good over evil with the Resurrection and rejoicing of Easter Day. There is a message in all of that for the defeat of Daesh, and the obliteration of their poisonous ideology. We may now be in the blackness of Good Friday. But Insha'Allah, with God’s help, we can look forward to the glory and hope of a Middle Eastern Easter Day to come.