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Faith J.H. McDonnellJune 11, 2012
Last week, many important moments in history marked their anniversaries. They deserve some reflection in and of themselves, but even more striking is how they all occurred in less than seven days and what they have in common.
On Wednesday, June 6, I was at the 2012 Jerusalem Day Prayer Breakfast on Capitol Hill. The event, sponsored by the International Israel Allies Caucus Foundation, called upon the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and as the place where the United States Embassy should be located. Former Florida Congressman, Dr. Dave Weldon, was the host. Senate hopeful Weldon, who has been a friend to Israel, has also supported our advocacy for the people of South Sudan. (See photo)
Eight current U.S. Representatives brought greetings and expressed their strong support of Israel. Several, including U.S. Representatives Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Allen West (R-FL) connected Jerusalem Day’s commemoration of the reunification of Jerusalem by the Six Day War, June 5-10, 1967, to D-Day, June 6, 1944, when Allied forces, landing on the beach at Normany, changed the direction of WWII. "In both instances, we mark a single day that changed history forever; turning humanity from a chapter which we hope, pray, and strive to ensure-- for the sake of our own children-- is never, ever repeated on our watch," observed Franks.
In my mind, I also associated the Six Day War with a more recent conflict. On June 5, 2011 the National Congress Party Sudanese government began attacking the people of South Kordofan State’s Nuba Mountains. This is the second genocide waged against the Nuba in 30 years. The first, with aerial bombardment, scorched earth, extra-judicial killings, slave raids, starvation, and wholesale slaughter, left the population at one third its former size. Currently, 500,000 Nuba are hiding in caves from the constant dropping of bombs. They are again threatened with deliberate starvation by Khartoum which has barred food aid. Two months after attacking the Nuba, Khartoum began attacking the people of Blue Nile State. That conflict is also ongoing.
Like the Israelis, the Nuba – Christian and Muslim alike – are targets of a “holy war,” jihad for opposing a hegemonous Arab Islamist State. Like the IDF facing Egyptian, Jordanian, Syrian, Iraqi, and Lebanese armed forces, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/North (SPLA/N) is David fighting Goliath. Like the Israelis, against all odds, feeling abandoned by the world, they win the ground battles against Sudan’s much bigger army. (If the SPLA/N had an air force, or even a full anti-aircraft arsenal, I really believe that Khartoum would have no chance.)
Sudan President Omar al Bashir’s commands for killing the Nuba, “cleanse the region” and “sweep out the trash,” are echoes of Israel’s enemies. Just before the Six Day War, then Iraqi President Rahman Aref announced, "This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear--to wipe Israel off the map.” That sentiment has been echoed by other Arab leaders and common-or-garden civilian anti-Semites through the years.
The three previously mentioned anniversaries were not the only events of great significance all occurring within a week’s time. Two other events last week demonstrated the triumph of democracy. Another two were royal and celestial events.
On June 4, 1989, tanks rolled into China's Tiananmen Square to crush pro-democracy demonstrations. As well as fighting democracy and freedom, the Chinese Communist regime attempted to crush Christianity. But on the 23rd anniversary of Tiananmen Square, there are more Christians in China than ever. Increasingly they are coming from China's young intellectual population and from the pro-democracy movement. And according to records kept by the Falun Gong, as of 5/29/12, 117,053,734 Chinese have quit the Chinese Communist Party.
IRD’s friend, Fang Zheng, was a university student in Beijing in 1989. He was a star sprinter and Olympic hopeful until his legs were crushed by a tank at Tiananmen Square. This year, Fang, who was given prosthetic limbs in 2009, was the special guest at the Tiananmen commemoration in Hong Kong. He urged young Chinese not to forget the lessons of those who braved the Chinese Communist government in 1989.
Rounding out the week’s events, the United Kingdom celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Festivities surrounding Elizabeth’s 60th anniversary as Queen included the largest flotilla on the River Thames in 350 years on Sunday, June 3. The Thames Diamond Jubilee River Pageant was led by a barge that was a floating belfry, housing eight Royal Jubilee Bells especially forged for the occasion and named after Elizabeth and her closest family members. Also at the front of the flotilla was the “Gloriana,” a new 94 ft. rowboat with 18 rowers. Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family rode aboard the yacht, the “Spirit of Chartwell.” The Diamond Jubilee also included a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral, a star-studded concert, and the lighting of over 4200 beacons across England and the Commonwealth.
In English towns and villages, church bells are frequently silenced out of mistaken ideas of “tolerance” and multiculturalism. But the Queen’s Jubilee River Pageant broke that silence. The Royal Jubilee Bells rang out joyfully. Their peals were answered by church bells all along the river. And on the last day of the Queen’s celebration, June 5, it seemed as if the heavens themselves joined the celebration when the planet Venus began its transit of the Sun. This will not take place again until the year 2117!
After thanking God for the beauty of the sun dazzled journey of Venus, we should mark the anniversaries of the other events with much thought and prayer for the future. Pray that the freedoms for which we fight and die would not be lost. Pray that the evil that still flourishes would be identified and countered. Although these were all momentous events in time, their mark on history, whether for good or for evil, is not indelible.
WWII ended terrible tyranny. But the world now embraces other terrible tyrannies. Israel gained strength after the Six Day War, but has been forced into one-sided compromises to win favor from a world community that will never fully accept it. Khartoum's attack on the Nuba, Blue Nile State, and other marginalized people groups demonstrates that although the NCP regime has signed peace agreements, it is, as the late Dr. John Garang warned, "too deformed to reform."
On the other hand, flesh-and-bone-crushing tanks were not repression’s final word in China. More and more Chinese citizens boldly are hoping for democracy and religious freedom even while experiencing persecution. And in spite of irrational, emotionally-charged protests, Governor Walker’s election has endured. More of Wisconsin's citizens seem to believe his firm and common sense solutions to the state's financial crisis are working than not.
The celebration of Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee seemed to encourage many English people. The pride and joy in many a face seemed to say that they were reminded of their Empire’s former strength and grandeur, even as the nation faces financial troubles and assaults from Islamists that to see the flag of Islam fly from Buckingham Palace. The ringing of the bells recalled England as it had once been and the lighting of the beacons symbolized unity across the diverse villages, town, and cities of the British Commonwealth.
It is virtually impossible that any of us will see another transit of Venus. We have no control over that celestial moment. But we can work and pray to ensure that the triumphs of freedom whose anniversaries we observed last week would not be lost. We can work and pray to ensure that the evil that still flourishes today, such as that being used against Sudan’s marginalized people, would be identified and opposed. Although these were all momentous events in time, their mark on history, whether for good or for evil, is not indelible.
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