This is the story of two men and how their lives intersected last week in North Africa.
One man is a hero of the Libyan Revolution and is beloved by all of Libya. When others turned away, Chris Stevens hitched a ride on a Greek cargo ship and went into the battle for Benghazi. I remember the news reports early in the Libyan Revolution. I heard the stories of the lone American dodging bullets, standing in solidarity with the people of Benghazi and advocating for their defense. He changed the minds of the State Department officials, he changed the minds of the international community. He won the hearts of Libyans and he changed the world. I thought this must be some kind of Stephen Seagal or Rambo type figure, some ex-military in camouflage with bandoliers strapped across his chest. Instead Chris Stevens was a diplomat, a veteran of the Peace Corps not the Marine Corps, schooled at UC Berkeley.
The other man is a fighter exiled from the fight but determined to make his voice heard. To that end, he has aligned himself with anti-Islamic hate groups and Birthers. He was part of the ACT! for America protest against the Mosque near Ground Zero and the speakers at the recent Values Voters conference are among his friends. He is the link between filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and the promotion of the film "The Innocence of Muslims" on Egyptian television. On his website, along with Pastor Terry Jones, he pronounced "September 11, 2012 International Judge Muhammad Day". They hoped that by naming the film the "Innocence of Muslims" they could trick Muslims into watching it. He emailed the video to an Egyptian TV reporter three times, pressing to have it shown on television. He wanted to spark the inevitable violence we've seen sweep the Middle East. Unlike the Ambassador Chris Stevens, Morris Sadek and his supporters are safe from the violence he incited, living in America.
Sadek's website announces their plans: http://nacopticas1.blogspot.ca
Morris Sedak at ACT! for America protest
Not long after the overthrow of Mubarak, my friend Ruth was waiting for her children to arrive from Eritrea. They had planned to fly out of Cairo. Then the news came that the same people who stood together weeks earlier against Mubarak, were now fighting each other in the streets of Cairo. Old hatred, pushed aside for a common goal, now erupted in the struggle for power. Her children were not safe in Cairo and she sent them back to Eritrea. She cancelled the trip to America and put the family reunion on hold.
My friend Ruth belongs to the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church which is much like the Coptic Christian Church in Egypt. Her faith and her country are an island in the midst of a sea of Islam. Eritrea is a small country but is very proud of it's heritage and it's independence. For a time Ruth lived and worked in Cairo and is familiar with the ongoing battle between the Copts and Muslims. But Ruth's faith isn't about domination and control of land. It's about the kindness that she expresses in every thing she does. Her faith is a joyful one and she sings as she cooks. She may be the truest Christian I've ever met.
Before Ruth's children were set to leave, a rumor spread that a Muslim girl was being held captive in the Coptic Church. There was a riot with boys with sticks and rocks setting fires. More than one Coptic Church has been set ablaze. Google Coptic Church and you will find long lists of attacks on the Copts in Egypt. Usually the reason is an untrue rumor of some blasphemous thing the Copts have done. A gang of Salafi Muslims have vowed, "We won't leave any Christians in this country" according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Those attackers were never arrested. Being a Christian in the Middle East has never been easy but it's getting more dangerous everyday.
I can hear the atheists now. It's all the fault of religion. But when democracy goes haywire and gives us NeoCons and Birthers - I don't hear them condemn all democracy. I wonder sometimes if Christians should do a Frank Luntz re-branding, maybe call themselves Nazarenes. Maybe then their cause would be more sympathetic More Dalai Lama, less Focus on the Family.
Instead they are defended by Anti-Islamic haters like Morris Sadek whose recent Breitbart style stunt will undoubtedly cost the lives of Egyptian Copts. Several Coptic women saw Morris Sadek at an airport and threw their shoes at him shouting, "If there are deaths, you are to blame." Inciting riots thousands of miles away is neither American or Christian.
This is the story of two men and how their lives intersected on September 11, 2012 in North Africa. Both Ambassador Chris Stevens and Morris Sadek are living outside the land of their birth, one man loves both countries the other hates both.
And in a way it's the story of two other men whose lives will turn on the events of last week. One man, Mitt Romney, is more at ease with the methodical hum of numbers. He sees each interaction as a way to subtract from others, divide his opponents and multiply his wealth. He seems incapable of speaking the language of compassion or diplomacy. He has elbowed his way into this game by using wealth to hold down his opponents and cut their hair. He has not earned his place in this competition.
The other man, Barack Obama, knows the power of words. A few years ago he didn't understand and he promised too much to a country thirsting for salvation. He faced bitter rebuke when he failed to deliver. He knows too the damage a hasty word about a scuffle between an elderly man and a policeman can do. His words are more measured now. His hair has more grey. He's learned to aim carefully.
In America, God does not ask us to defend him from insults. In fact he forbids it. Vengeance is mine saith the Lord. Americans see these mobs of angry men armed with sticks and stones defending the honor of their God and we think, "How weak this God must be." In America, we do not kill to protect God from words. This is not what good men do. Good men are not frightened by the passions of the angry mob. They reach out to understand the frustrations borne of decades of humiliation living under the tyrant's thumb and being taught America was to blame. You can not change that with a drone attack, a revolution and some foreign aid. You can only change that when good men walk into the conflict and change one heart at a time. Ambassador Stevens was a good man. We have lost another good man.
When we learned of the death of Ambassador Stevens one man rushed to a microphone to to accuse the other of failure. Then pleased that he had done the bidding of his donors and used a "Carter type scenario" to his benefit, he smirked as he left the podium. Another man, to whom Ambassador Stevens was not just a pawn in a political game but a friend, is somber and deliberate. Like Stevens he plays the long game, not just for the American interests but for a region that has known nothing but tyranny and oppression for generations.
A colleague of Chris Stevens, Judith Drotar wrote for CNN,
"What really made Chris exceptional to me, however, was his ability to distance himself. Not the aloof kind of distancing that you might expect from someone in his position, but the kind where one puts emotion and ego aside in order to truly listen, to understand, and then to find a way to build bridges. It is extremely rare to find someone who can do that, consistently rising above the fray, and that's what makes his death so especially painful."
Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 3:52 PM PT: The uproar over Benghazi is being led by ACT! for America -
They lit the fire and now beat their chests for the dead.
Follow the links
Romney 47% Donor suggested "recreate Carter scenario" as in 1979 Iranian Embassy attacks-> Donor is part of this far right anti-Islamic group ACT! -> ACT! protested Ground Zero Mosque along with-> Egyptian Coptic Morris Sadek-> Sadek dubbed "Innocence of Muslims" in Arabic and sent it to Cairo TV reporter (3 times)-> on Sadek websitehe announced plans to incite violence in hopes of provoking anti-Islamic reaction.