In the past few days, members of NATO have agreed to support a “no-fly” zone over Libya in support for those struggling to escape from the terrorizing regime of a mad man known as Muammar Qaddafi, whose dictatorship began in 1969 in this country along the northeast coast of Africa. Like so many of the countries in this region, Libya is one of several countries whose citizens have been joining forces to unseat a current government in favor of one more democratic or at least more humane. The Lockerbie bombing (Pan Am 103), UTA bombing in France in 1989 and bombing in a discotechque in Berlin in 1986 have all occurred at the hands of Libyan terrorists. Obviously there are plenty of reasons, many countries want to want to see the end of Qaddafi’s regime and even of the dictator himself.
But there are also other countries whose citizen live under rules which can restrict both freedom and choice and cause inhuman treatment. Turkmenistan and Maldives(all but destroyed by the 2004 tsunami) have banned all opposition as Libya does. The countries of Bangladesh, Columbia, Lebanon,Sri Lanka and even the Phillipines have been in nearly chronic political turmoil. Myanmar(Burma) and Sudan are just two countries under military rule. North Korea remains under communist rule as does Cuba, and many more countries have aspects of military rule enforcing the way people are governed.
No one wants terrorists to restrict the right of their own citizens or those of any other nation but that brings up a question of responsibility and what role governments do have in both protecting their own citizens and assisting groups who want to achieve more independence from dictatorship or military enforcement. What is a Christian response to political unrest? What should our approach be? Do we offer resources to groups opposed to the severe restrictions on their freedoms and who suffer at the hands of madmen. And who decides what constitutes indignities or restrictions as many countries experienced improved infrastructure as a result of government and/or military take over?What is the best role Christians can take in response to citizens of any nation seeking to unseat or reclaim the current government?
These questions require more than a passing reflection and also offer a glimpse into just how difficult having a Christian world view and a plan of action can be without considering numerous factors. While Christians should be supportive of human rights and dignity, should there have been more demand by Christians to support the rights of individuals who suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot in the 1970’s or the horrific crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda.
While countries may have denounced the actions in Rwanda and by the Khmer Rouge, many historians believe that foreign intervention was directly responsible for inciting some of the atrocities and even encouraging the efforts of the rebel forces. Realizing that sanctions were being imposed created an atmosphere which often led rebel forces to take the actions against the very people outside intervention hoped to spare.
While there exists a separation of church and state, neither should separate our moral compass as a Christian. Christians must respond appropriately to the atrocities being committed in various parts of the world, but exactly what do we do? Do we send supplies, missionaries and prayers as the best we can offer? Should we actively rally our governments to take definitive measures in whatever means is necessary to overthrow the terrorist governments and salvage as much human life as possible? Or does being involved at all impose a value system to others who have no means to compare what or when they want a change? What response does God ask of Christians? Are we simply asked to straddle a less than clear conscience on issues for which we have little comprehension? In these times of turmoil are prayers alone a cowardly act of defending human rights?
It’s a very difficult line in the sand. Which side do you stand on and why?