After six months of conflict in Libya, rebel leaders have seized control of Tripoli. Although the fighting is far from over, residents of the country anticipate that Libya will soon be a new country, characterized by freedom in the absence of Gadhafi’s regime. At least this is the hope. 40 years of a harsh dictator has left the people craving for change, renewed leadership, and a prosperous society. The only question is how such will be achieved without persisting in the same direction.
I am cautiously optimistic. I know the potential that this country now has – economic and educational opportunities that were never enjoyed before, a stable government where people are respected and life is valued, and a civil society without the threat of oppression. But I also know history, and history shows that when given the chance, oppressed people often turn around and oppress other people. Rwanda’s history is a prime example of this tragedy. When the Hutu’s came to power after years of being oppressed by the Tutsi’s, they reacted by not only doing them the same, but by committing genocide. Now, Rwanda’s case is the extreme, however, it highlights the human tendency to seek revenge, to ostracize, and to use power as a means of exploiting the other.
This human tendency finds its roots outside of the Garden of Eden. Soon after the fall of humankind, we meet the first person in history to oppress another person. When Cain realized that his brother Abel’s sacrifice was more pleasing to God, he not only turned against him but he killed him, the ultimate expression of oppression. It is safe to say that Cain was motivated by jealously, in that he was jealous of Abel’s sacrifice. More importantly, however, Cain was motivated by fear and was afraid of what Abel’s close relationship with God could mean for him. His answer was to eliminate the competition, not realizing that God gives each and every one of us an opportunity to draw near to him.
I believe that fear is the number one driver of oppression around the world. Like Pharaoh in the biblical book Exodus, we fear being overpowered by people who appear to be mightier than us. We fear the unknown. We fear retribution. We fear God. Out of our fear, we seek to control the situations that we find ourselves in by any means necessary.
My prayer for Tripoli and the entire country of Libya is that their actions in the coming days, weeks and months will not be motivated by fear. I pray that instead, they would be motivated by genuine heartfelt love for their country and for its citizens and that this love would propel them into actions that will stimulate the growth and development of this nation that has a chance at a second start. I pray that individual tribes and people groups would not seek to control one another out of fear of what the other might do to them, but that instead, they would learn to live and work alongside each other. My prayer for Libya is the same as my prayer for the rest of the world, that we would put aside the fear that divides us and embrace the life that unites us at the cross of Christ.
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