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The Spirit of Compassion by Raynor Hoff (1894&...

The Spirit of Compassion by Raynor Hoff (1894–1937), carved from marble on the South Australian National War Memorial, unveiled in 1931. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Healthy are they who from the inner womb birth forth compassion,
they shall feel its warm arms embracing them.

(Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy)

Mercy is often depicted as the grudging letting go of rightful retribution or discipline for a wrong, along the lines of “OK, I’ll let you off this time,but you’re on notice. Don’t let it happen again.” It is often associated with a Western understanding of jurisprudence, allowing for some melioration of the hardness of the cold scales of justice

The word in Greek is eleos, taken after the god Eleos renowned in Hellenistic mythology for pity and compassion. The stories relate to shelter and reprieve for those caught in the maelstrom of political and military conflict.

The translation from Aramaic reinforces not only the notion, but the depth of commitment and nurture behind compassion. Indeed it is a quality that is birthed rather than decided. It is warm and flowing, eschewing all association with jurisprudence.

We may know some such merciful ones.

Recent attention on Uganda has contrasted the viral Stop Kony campaign (for justice) and not so well known rebuilding programs such as those run by the Irene Gleeson Foundation which provides shelter, food, health care, education and vocation for former child soldiers and the following generations. The latter is the face of mercy.