It’s truly amazing to watch the Arab world struggling to throw its dictators out of power, one by one. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Palestine, Jordan, Yemen, Syria–this is what the Islamic concept of jihad is really about!
This all reminds me of the jihad we got to witness in the late 80’s/early 90’s across the Soviet Eastern Bloc, and then the USSR itself. One by one, people of every country stood up against those that oppressed them, as most often with the Arab countries, nonviolently (Libya right now is a grand exception), just taking to the streets (and even singing their resistance, in the Baltic states!), demanding an end to their oppressors’ rule. Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Czecheslovakia, Germany (yeah, Germany!, remember the dismantling of the Berlin Wall? stunning….), on and on through what is now 14 countries. The culmination of which happened 20 years ago this month.
Some other truly impressive things also happened in other parts of the world at the same time–Tienanmen Square (April through June 1989), and Mandela’s release (2/11/90) among them–but oh my, do you remember the failed Communist coup 20 years ago? The Great Saint Gorbachev taken “on vacation” by hardliners, and the Russian people refusing absolutely to allow another October Revolution. Thousands of people, just people!, refusing to let this happen. Even in the face of such potential violence, as we’re seeing today in the Arab world, it is always stunning to watch people choose what could very likely be death for most of them, over the status quo continuing.
The barricades in Moscow held, and Soviet soldiers jumped out of their tanks to join the crowds. Boris Yeltsin held the resistance together (remember Yeltsin? how fun was that, to have him and Bill Clinton in power at the same time!?), and in just three days the oppressors’ back was broken. It brought me to tears in those undergraduate years, to watch in real time what I could only imagine when reading the likes of Dorothy Day, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin King. As we get ready to unveil this new national memorial to King this weekend, all of this is so important to bring to mind as we speak.
To butcher a famous phrase here, all that evil needs to survive is for good people to do nothing. Well, here’s another constant truth in my meager experience: all people are good, and if they just do something, evil cannot survive. It may only take three days. It may take three generations. But when it happens….well, as a Christian, I proclaim that I see God’s kin(g)dom come to earth, again!; that the Justice and Love Jesus embodies is incarnated in the lives of those who make these courageous stands; that the Spirit that always, constantly hovers over the earth and moves where She will surprises us yet again when we commit to true Peace. Please come find me when these things happen, and let’s celebrate together!
Rev. Dennis Teall-Fleming is a Licensed Minister for The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and Pastor of Open Hearts Gathering, a Spirit-chew-all Experiment in Gastonia, NC.