Bahrain is a tiny island in the Persian Gulf, between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“Wherever people long to be free they will find a friend in the United States,” is what President Obama said in response to questions about his intent to act in Libya. While those actions were welcome and noble, Bahrain – the tiny but strategic nation in the middle of the six countries that control half of the world’s oil – has been left to it’s own devices as it’s people are literally dying for democracy.
Since February of 2011 Bahrainis have been protesting the rule of the religious majority by a single family from the religious minority. Because of the connections the royal family has to neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia and others, it has been able to strong arm it’s people. At one point over a quarter of population of Bahrain marched in a pro-democracy protest. The government of Bahrain then declared a state of martial law, ordering people to remain in their homes, and commanded the police and military turn on the people. Innocent people protesting peacefully were shot, beaten, and gassed. Then, the only public hospital capable of caring for protestors was declared a hub for treasonous activities and the doctors, nurses and patients were beaten in the hospital. Medical staff was arrested for trying to care for the protesters, most of which were critically injured. Intelligence officials then came and changed patient records, taking away any evidence of policy or military guilt. Eventually, all forms of public gathering, with the exception of funerals, were banned. This order remains.
Since martial law was declared the state media has employed television and social networking to find and prosecute anyone who participated in the pro-democracy protests of the spring. Anyone – from a soccer star, to a human rights lawyer, to a 20 year old female poet – once found, was arrested, jailed and tortured before they were even given a trial date. Though many less “infamous” criminals were just beaten to death and their corpses returned to the streets.
Repeatedly, the people of this Muslim nation, cried out to the United States to help them. They never questioned whether or not we would hear their cry, believing wholeheartedly, that because of our professed values of freedom and democracy we would come swiftly to their aid. Their attempt at democratic revolution wasn’t even televised in America.
The police and military are roaming the streets targeting specific religious groups and arresting them. No distinction is made between journalists, protesters and by-standers. Tear gas, made in Pennsylvania, USA, is being used to subdue and expel people protesting their Islamic dictatorship in favor of a secular democracy. There’s a sick sort of irony in that. That same teargas was used this week in the home of an innocent family, and it killed their 5 day old baby girl. Her father scalded his hand as he threw the canister back out the window, trying to protect his children, but it was too late for his youngest daughter.
One protester said via her Twitter account, “Most people in Bahrain have never been to Pennsylvania, but we know it from teargas canisters.”
As American’s we’re so anxious about our relations with Islamic nations in the Middle East, and we’re especially touchy about the ones that control the oil. With such a strategic ally as Bahrain, hungry for democracy and pleading for our help I’m baffled as to why American media won’t even give their struggle the time of day.
As Christians the political “big picture” should be irrelevant. We have a nation of people being oppressed by a ruthless regime that’s unafraid and unashamed of taking innocent lives. Our own country is selling teargas to a dictatorship to help them crush the peoples dreams of democracy and even take their lives. Christians, especially in America, should be doing everything in our power to help them. It shouldn’t matter what they believe, where they live, or what color their skin is. Their children deserve a life, and one without fear, as much as ours do. They deserve freedom as much as anyone, and we certainly don’t deserve it anymore than they do.
The best thing we can do right now for Bahrainis is to spread the word of their struggle. Post it on Facebook and Twitter, learn as much as possible and tell anyone who will listen. Then, begin to write letters. For some reason the media in America has tried to down play the revolution in Bahrain. If Christians, working together as The Body, can bring the struggle in Bahrain to the attention of the media and legislators, and show them that this is something that is important, from there we can affect real change.
We were blessed to be born into a country where the voice of a small number of concerned citizens is all that can be required to bring about change. This is what the Bahrainis are willing to die for, and we take it for granted every day. Christians have an obligation to use this system to further God’s Kingdom. It’s an amazing resource that we let go to waste too often.
For those concerned about the Muslim faith, what better witness is there for a primarily Muslim nation to have a group of Christian Americans bring their cause to the national consciousness? While their Muslim brothers and sisters are oppressing them, Christians are trying to do as our God commanded and be a voice for the oppressed. But, no matter what we may feel about them, they need our help. God has commanded that out of love for them as people we help them, and do it expecting nothing in return.
Let’s hold President Obama to his word and make America a friend to Bahrainis. It should go without saying that wherever people long to be free from oppression, they will find a compassionate advocate in Christians. They certainly would have found a friend and advocate in the Lord Jesus.
For an amazing documentary of the revolution please see Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark. Al Jazeera is the only international news group covering the revolution in Bahrain, their footage and interviews are some of the only documentation available.