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The Pope, Truth and Freedom's Hope

04/07/2005


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 afraid."

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 Absolutes.

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.