What started with one man’s protest over his vegetable cart being unlawfully seized in the small Mediterranean nation of Tunisia, almost identical in size and population to Georgia, has blossomed into a movement of young and old alike, who are pushing for some of the largest human rights reforms the world has ever seen. First in Tunisia, then later in Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, to name a few, a wave of public demonstrations and protests call for everything from granting basic human rights to total regime change (here is an interactive timeline). The protests have in common the use of social media, such as Facebook,Twitter, and YouTube, to organize, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and internet censorship. Many of us are watching this week as rebels in Egypt have pressed in on Muammar Gaddafi’s position and power in Libya in an effort to deport or detain him for trial.
We speak often of the seismic changes that are happening around us, particularly in regard to technology and telecommunications, and how they are impacting our culture and our homes. Yet, these recent global cultural shifts are historic compared to those in the US that typically garner media attention (another Hollywood couple is breaking up, another political figure said something today they will flip-flop on tomorrow, or another super-fast mobile device that will change everything is being released). Here we are seeing, possibly, the largest worldwide effort by occupied citizens to overthrow governments and dictators, ever. Change is in the air and the name for this change hearkens to the warming of the earth when winter gives way to spring.
What does all of this mean for us? How will it impact our nation and our freedoms? How will it affect our resources and the resources we need to maintain our lives (we think immediately of energy)? How will these shifts change our national expenditures abroad, and what impact will that have on our deficit and, subsequently, our ability to create jobs in the short and long terms? What does this mean for our souls? What does it mean to see oppressed peoples find their voice and, in some cases, find new freedoms that had previously been denied them? How do such significant events abroad shape what we follow and call significant here?
John Donne gave us a glimpse of the truth when he wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself.” We believe the same about humanity and say even more in regard to our belief about God. God is One, as our Savior and our Scriptures repeatedly assert, and our growing relationship with God draws us into deeper connections with one another. Let us pray that all people, everywhere, be granted freedom to work, to worship, to live, and to grow into the grace-filled, abundant living God has created all of us to receive.