During all of the
news coverage surrounding the life and death of Pope John Paul II, an
important historical parallel struck me. As President Bush works to bring
an "Arab spring" to thaw the long winter of Middle East discontent, we
must question the desires of those captives we wish to liberate.
The pontiff, born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in
the city of Wadowice, Poland, visited his native country a year after
becoming Pope. About one-third of the population (the entire population,
not just Catholics) turned out for his appearances. His message to his
countrymen struggling to throw off the chains of Communism: "Be not
Shortly thereafter, Communist agents in
Bulgaria, another Soviet satellite, recruited a Turk to assassinate the
Pope. The attack failed in every way. Pope John Paul II survived and his
message of faith, peace and courage took on an even deeper meaning. The
revolution organized under Lech Walesa and the bloodless battle to free
Poland began. Solidarity leaders found sanctuary in Catholic churches and
with the political support of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, the
Pope helped eradicate the Godless secularism imposed by the Soviets, the
first domino to fall in Eastern Europe.
The Pope's message of freedom and faith
served as a lighthouse to all of those suffering under oppression. Though
there was resistance from those who lost power in the transitions to
democracy, the vast majorities in Poland, East Germany, Latvia, Romania
and other Soviet states desired freedom. They did not seek to impose their
own oppressive ideas on their fellow countrymen. They simply wanted to the
freedom to raise their children in a land of peace and opportunity.
Fast forward a quarter-century to the revolutions taking place across the
Middle East, whether it's the elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, the
"Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon, or the incremental improvements in
other Muslim countries. Here, primarily under the leadership once again of
the United States and Great Britain, the light of liberty has been
ignited. But will the people here respond as they did in the Soviet Union
and Eastern Europe? Will they seek a state protecting the rights of
everyone or will they trade one form of oppression for another?
Extreme Islamic fundamentalism threatens to enslave the very people we
wish to liberate. And much of it comes not from within countries steeped
in propaganda and religious extremism, where the truth can be difficult to
discern, but from those in free societies, including America.
Harvey Kushner, a professor of Criminal Justice and a federal government
counterterrorism adviser, recently wrote Holy War on the Home Front:
The Secret Islamic Terror Network in the United States. Kushner says,
"Islamic extremists constitute a fifth column -- a highly organized
underground army whose tentacles reach into our colleges and universities;
recruit converts in mosques and prisons; and raise money through bogus
Muslim charities and drug running operations -- in America. They are
committed to the most violent goals of Islamic jihad and united in their
belief that [Allah] wants them to destroy America completely."
This radical ideology, from those in a position to objectively witness the
freedom at the doorstep of the Middle East, represents a dangerous
opportunity for the Arab world to escape the prisons of dictators only to
become enslaved to a hatred justified by fundamental religious teaching.
In the penal system, "lifers" -- those who spend the bulk of their
years in prison -- often become "institutionalized." Upon release,
they do not know how to function in a free society. Out of habit, they
commit more crimes, landing themselves back in prison unless their mind
and belief system is, in fact, transformed, they are held captive by their
flawed thought processes and practices.
Far too many in the Middle East are political and spiritual "lifers."
The institutions of violence and hatred are deeply ingrained through years
of misinformation, a deceptive characterization of the West and the free
world, all too often wrapped in the cloak of religious faith. So while we
must continue to shine the light of liberty upon them, encouraging them to
"be not afraid" of the tumultuous transition, we must also hope and
pray that they will purposely choose to come out of their spiritual
darkness and embrace truth, peace, hope and freedom. The desire to be
truly free must be fed by the realization that they are a people, and
nations, held captive -- prisoners of deception.
Author: James Robison
Word Count: 471
About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE
Outreach International, an international humanitarian aid ministry; host
of the television program, Life
Today; and author of The
Media Contact: Randy Robison, randy.robison at loi.org
Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for
complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.