Total Pageviews

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Akbar Mohammadi: a martyr for peace and freedom

"The light of injustice will not burn forever
 if it burns one night, it shall be extinguished tomorrow..."

On July 30, 2006, 34-year old pro democracy activist, Akbar Mohammadi died in Evin Prison, after enduring seven long years of grueling torture at the hands of the brutal Iranian regime. He had been arrested in 1999 after taking part in the student uprising demonstrations, the largest pro democracy movement since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Akbar spent most of his incarceration enduring long hours of interrogations, beatings and torture. A week before his death, he had been on a hunger strike protesting the refusal by authorities to allow him to seek medical treatment for his injuries.
Akbar is just one example of the many thousands of political prisoners who are silenced by a brutal regime for speaking out against the gross human rights violations that occur daily in Iran. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion is a precious gift that most of us enjoy, but in Iran, the gift of freedom and democracy, is only a hope and dream in a society ruled by Islamic law.
Today is a very painful day for my dear friend Nasrin Mohammadi. Nasrin is Akbar's sister. She loved her brother and was very close to him. Since his death Nasrin has worked very hard to keep her brother's vision of peace and freedom alive. One way she has accomplished that is by publishing Akbar's prison diary that describes in detail the beatings and torture he endured on a daily basis.
"Ideas and lashes: the prison diary of Akbar Mohammadi," is a powerful book that describes what life was like for Akbar in Evin Prison. Akbar vividly describes the long, grueling hours of interrogations, repeated questions, demands for answers and even when he told the truth, the interrogators responded by beating the bottom of his bare feet with steel cables until he passed out. Daily floggings, no medical treatment and very little sleep between the endless interrogations, was the daily routine for Akbar. At one point Akbar was handcuffed and hung upside down, a painful and agonizing form of torture designed to force him to reveal the names of other students involved in the demonstrations.
Yet Akbar refused to tell and remained loyal to his Friends until the very end.
Nasrin writes in "Ideas and lashes," that her brother gave his life for democracy and freedom for his fellow citizens."
She also pointed out that Akbar stood up against the injustices of his fellow cellmates and for that reason alone, he was subjected to more beatings and torture.
 "Whenever our family sent him cash in jail, Nasrin writes, he would immediately share it with his cellmates, keeping the least amount for himself."
 Inspite of the painful suffering that Nasrin and her family endured following the sad death of her brother, there is a glimmer of justice in the tragedy.
 Nasrin and her brother Manouchehr, were invited to the white house by President George W. Bush and honored  for their courageous fight for freedom in Iran.
The fight for freedom and human rights in Iran is an ongoing struggle that continues to claim the lives of many brave protesters. In the midst of his captivity, Akbar wrote a poem of hope, a light in the darkness, that looked forward to the day that the struggle would finally come to an end. In the midst of his suffering, Akbar clung onto the hope for a free Iran one day.

The light of injustice will not burn forever.
If it burns one night, its fire will be extinguished tomorrow.
How long will sorrow be the joy of my existence?
Much sin has been committed in your name, O freedom
On the threshold of execution gallows, torture rack, and prison
They drink wine and raise their glasses in your name, O freedom
The dark nights are over my friend and we will see the dawn
when the sun rises on the edge of freedom.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

"One book and One pen can change the world!"

"Let us take up our books and pens, for they are our most
  powerful weapons!"
    ...Malala Yousafzai...speech at U.N.
         July 12, 2013

 All of us at one time or another have been inspired and motivated by famous speeches.
 Abraham Lincoln's powerful Gettysburg address in 1863 in which he lamented the bloody cost of the civil war, contains the unforgettable phrase, "that government of the people, by the people and for the people, will never perish from the earth."
 Or who can forget, JFK's speech that challenged all Americans with the famous question, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country?"
 Finally, the late Dr. Martin Luther king, in the midst of the bloody struggle for racial equality in 1963, declared to a nation torn apart by racism, "I have a dream!"
 Words are very powerful! Words can change the destiny of our lives,
 Recently I was inspired and challenged by the words of Malala Yousafzai, who gave a powerful, life changing speech at The United nations on her 16th birthday.
 On October 6, 2012, Malala was seriously wounded after being shot in the head by the Taliban in her native country of Pakistan. Nearly one year later after many surgeries in both the U.K. and Pakistan, Malala has made an amazing recovery.
 On July 12, 2013, on her 16th birthday, Malala addressed the United Nations Assembly in what I believe is one of the most courageous speeches I've ever heard. With her mother and father present, Malala, dressed in a beautiful pink and white hijab, stood at a podium, thanking everyone for their prayers and praising her doctors and nurses for her miraculous recovery.
 "I speak not for myself, but for those without a voice so they can be heard," Malala declared.
 She then recalled the frightening day when she was shot and made a bold declaration saying, "They thought that the bullet would silence us, but they failed, out of that silence came thousands of voices!"
 There was a rousing applause and then Malala boldly proclaimed, "The terrorists thought they would change my aim and stop my ambition, but nothing changed except, weakness, fear and hopelessness died and strength and courage was born!"
 "I don't hate the Taliban who shot me," she admitted.
 Malala credited Mohammed and Jesus for teaching her compassion and her parents for impressing on her the importance of forgiveness.
 "Extremists are afraid of books and pen," Malala pointed out as she urged the governments of the world to help her wage war against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism.
 Malala's goal is to ensure and protect the rights of every woman and every child across the globe through peace and education.
 "Let us take up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons!"
 I watched this speech in tears! I was so proud and inspired by this young girl's courage!
 When I think about the role models for our teenagers today, Malala is the first person who comes to my mind! She is my hero! We need more role models like Malala instead of the "hip-hop celebrities  who are busy promoting drugs and sex and leading many of our teens down the road to ruin.
 After watching her speech, I'm sure you will agree with me that one day we will see Malala as the next woman president of Pakistan!


Monday, July 22, 2013

Blinded by Hypocrisy

"What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and Pharisees.
 They are blind guides leading the blind, and if one blind person
 guides another, they will both fall into a ditch."
      (Matthew 15:16; 23:27)

For the past week, our nation has been emotionally and racially ripped apart as a result of George Zimmerman being acquitted by a jury in the death of Trayvon Martin.
Zimmerman's claim of self-defense has been unanimously rejected by most of the black community causing nationwide rioting and raging tempers.
Ironically, ten thousand miles across the other side of the world in the heart of the middle east, the nation of Iran has also weighed in with their opinion on the controversial trial of the decade.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Seyed Abbas Araqchi said, "the murder of the teenage African American once again clearly demonstrated the unwritten, systematic racial discrimination against racial, religious and ethnic minorities in the US society."
 Araqchi went on to declare that the ruling, "seriously put under question the fairness of the judicial process in the United States."
As I sit here preparing to respond to the statements made by Iran's foreign minister, I hardly know where to begin! The mullahs of Iran are accusing our legal system of being unfair and racially bias and that we are guilty of ethnic and religious discrimination! They are demanding justice for Trayvon!
Are you kidding me, Mr. Araqchi? I think before you lecture us on our "sins" that you first need to clean up your own backyard!
 Your prisons are filled with thousands of journalists, bloggers, lawyers and political activists, unjustly imprisoned and silenced for disagreeing with the dictatorship of the Iranian regime. They are beaten, tortured, denied proper medical care and eventually executed. How fair is that judicial process, Mr. Araqchi?
 You accuse of us engaging in "discrimination against racial and religious minorities," yet your country has no tolerance for religious freedom. If a Muslim converts to Christianity, they are arrested and brutally tortured until he or she recants and returns to the Islamic faith. And you say, we are guilty of the sin of religious and racial discrimination?
 There is a very important Biblical principle that Jesus taught about being judgmental toward others, that before we condemn and criticize the actions of someone else, we first need to remove the speck from our own eyes. Then we will be able to clearly see the speck in their eyes. In other words, we need to first deal with our own sinful shortcomings before we lecture someone else about theirs.
 Jesus had some of the harshest words and rebukes
against the religious leaders of his time. He exposed them for religious hypocrisy and called them blind guides and false teachers that were perverting the law of God for their own sinful ambitions.
Hypocrisy is a deadly sin that can effect us all and cause us to be blind to the truth.
 Iran wants Justice for Trayvon. But wait a minute, Mr. Araqchi. What about Justice for thousands of imprisoned Iranians, living under fear and oppression?
 I want justice for Neda Soltan, Mr. Araqchi, the beautiful Iranian woman who was peacefully protesting an unjust presidential election and was mercilessly gunned down by the basiji!
I want justice for Sattar Beheshti, a young blogger arrested for disagreeing with the Iranian regime and tortured to death in Evin Prison!
I want justice for Saeed Abedini, an American- Iranian Pastor, suffering from internal bleeding and imprisoned for Christian Faith!
The list could go on and on, but I think you can understand my outrage and frustration!
 Hypocrisy is a deadly snare that can blind us from the reality of our own sinful condition.
 There is a remedy to this deceitful sin.
  We can do what is good and pleasing in God's sight. He is pleased when we "act justly, show kindness and walk humbly before our God."  (Micah 6:8)
  I, too believe in fairness and justice, Mr. Araqchi. I, too hate racism and discrimination.
  But before we can begin criticizing, we must first remove the "speck" from our own eyes.
  That is the only cure for blind hypocrisy, Mr.Araqchi.
   May God open our eyes to clearly see!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Jesus: The Bread of life

"I am the bread of life.
 Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again
 Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
        (Jesus: John 6:35)

Once again, Cairo, Egypt has become the epicenter of tension, turmoil, violence and chaos. In the last few weeks, thousands of angry protesters filled Tahrir square, demanding that President Morsi be removed from office. Within a few days, the military stepped in and forced Morsi out of office and transported him to another location. Since taking office last June, Morsi began implementing many social policies to conform to a more stringent and radical Islam, making significant changes to Egypt's constitution. As a result, the economy began to plunge and angry Egyptians, fed up with the chaotic changes, took to the streets demanding Morsi and the Muslim brotherhood surrender their death grip on the government.
Two years ago, angry Muslims staged radical protests in Egypt, Libya and Syria, demanding their governments to immediately stop oppressing its people and bring true democracy and freedom. After all of the bloodshed and violence, millions of hungry hearts are still left empty
anxiously awaiting freedom. The question must be asked, why has Islam failed? Why is it not working?
Two thousand years ago, words of hope and freedom were uttered by Jesus to his followers who were also searching and longing for true satisfaction and peace.
Jesus declared to his disciples, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
Governments, leaders, kings and politicians come and go. Their empty promises to desperate people go unfulfilled. Political deceit and corruption continues to flourish leaving behind millions of frustrated and angry hearts.
 Yet Jesus promises to satisfy the longing heart in a way that governments and politicians never can. The Bible proclaims that, "the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. Who can cure it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)
 Jesus promises that He alone can satisfy and fulfill the spiritual cry of the human heart with his unconditional love and forgiveness. 
 As I was preparing to write this blog, I had a brief online chat with Mahtab my Iranian friend who lives in Tehran. She lamented to me that since her mother died five months ago, she had been experiencing lot of depression and sadness. Then Mahtab asked me what Christianity taught about life after death. I explained to her that Jesus is the Resurrection and the life and that he forgave all of our sins at the cross and rose triumphantly from the dead. I went on to say that anyone who puts their trust and faith in him will never have to fear death. He or she can have confidence and assurance that Jesus has cleansed them of all of their sins.
Mahtab was pleasantly surprised by my answer and said, "That is hopeful," but then she spoke about fearing the grave, because it is "so dark and scary." 
In Islam, Muslims are taught that they will be punished in the grave for forty days for sins they have committed in their lifetime. No wonder the grave is dark and scary! Muslims don't have assurance that they will be going to paradise. Their hope is soley based on how many good deeds they performed during their lifetime and on Judgment day, their good deeds must outweigh the bad.
The powerful promise of Jesus is the only remedy for the restless and hungry heart. He promises to fulfill the longings of our heart in a way that nothing or no one ever can. This Ramadan, I am praying for my Muslim friends all over the world in Iran, Malaysia, and Indonesia to experience the wonderful promise of Jesus for themselves.
Since I tasted the "bread of life" more than thirty years ago, I can say with absolute confidence that there is nothing else in the world that satisfies!