Feb. 11, 2010
Talk of Iran by Catholic leaders seems to have gone quiet. Or at least it’s gone underground. I’m looking for some moral guidance on what should be done about Iran and I’m having some trouble finding it.
We’ve heard plenty about what not to do. Don’t use violence. Don’t go to war. Yes, the Church plays an extremely crucial role in quelling the world’s warring itch while offering great wisdom as to when to scratch it. But at times like this, it would be nice to have a little more discussion. The complexity of this situation is huge, so perhaps leaders are hesitant to comment publicly.
In Iran, today is the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution that resulted in the currently pestilent regime. To celebrate this occasion, the Iranian government has coerced thousands of Iranians into “Freedom square” to parade around in front of the State-censored media cameras to show the world that the Iranian government is indeed capable of exploiting its people. Oh, they also announced that they are now a “Nuclear State.” And this morning the Iranian president did what he does every morning when he wakes up…claps his hands and says “today we are going to finish off Israel once and for all”.
But this isn’t just about another rogue country with certifiable leaders set on destroying western civilization getting a nuclear weapon. All possible symptoms of world instability, political blackmail and mass extermination aside, it is also about the Iranian people. And for that matter it is about every person living under tyranny across the world. Especially ones whose government is bent on hurting others.
Perhaps we aren’t justified in fighting back for them. Perhaps sanctions will only hurt the people we are trying to help. Perhaps we simply don’t have the global political will or ability to do much of anything? Yet the suffering continues.
Are the Iranian people justified in fighting back for themselves? Violently? They tried using the “democratic” election process but the election was stolen from them. They try protesting, but they are silenced and persecuted even more.
There is a current movement within Iran already working to overthrow the current tyranny there - The Green Movement. Despite their lack of public support from abroad, they are out again today putting their lives and those they love in danger as they protest. The Iranian government is doing everything they can to stop them:
Apart from the crackdown on the streets, the authorities on Wednesday drastically slowed Internet service in Iran and shut down text messaging services. One official said that Gmail, the Google e-mail service, would be blocked.
But news reports and opposition Web sites indicated that protesters still turned out in Tehran and the Iranian cities of Shiraz, Ahwaz and Isfahan.
An Iranian opposition Web site said security forces fired shots and tear gas at supporters of an opposition leader, Mir Hussein Moussavi, as they mounted a counter-rally in central Tehran. [NYT]
There is a lot going on there off-screen of the State-run media cameras. Unfortunately, due to the Iranian government’s grip on the country, we will only hear whispers of it.
If we can’t fight for them. If we are unwilling to impose serious sanctions or motivations for Iran to shape-up before they get a nuclear weapon. If all we are going to do as a world community is listen to these whispers and make speeches about it. Perhaps we can make speeches that support the overthrow of the currently absolutely hopeless government? Perhaps we could encourage the persecuted to keep fighting back and let them know that we will support them if they take over?
Or maybe the best response is not the boom of a gun or the volume of a megaphone, but a whisper of solidarity, encouragement and conspiracy. The Iranians are whispering. I imagine the US government is whispering back. At least they better be. More interestingly, I wonder what the Pope is whispering to them. He has been almost entirely silent and mostly generic in public about Iran in recent years. But I know he has kept up relatively good diplomacy with Iran. I wonder what he is whispering to them. I wonder if he is whispering with the Iranian people.
Pope Pius XII was long criticized for his public silence and apparent indifference to Hitler’s Germany. Years later we found out just what he had been whispering and doing privately to help the Jews. And post analysis of the Cold War has continued to reveal what a pivotal role Pope John Paul II played - both publicly and behind the scenes - in ending it.
Iran is surely a challenge of its own. But I wonder what this Pope is whispering behind the scenes right now to Iran and its people. Maybe one day we’ll look back and appreciate it. And hopefully that day is a better one for Iran, the region and the world.