Posted by: smstrouse | February 19, 2011

Bahrain: When the Empire Strikes Back

News from the Middle East and North Africa is are changing from day to day; it’s hard to keep up. Earlier this week, the ’empire’ in Bahrain struck back, as the military forces of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa moved against anti-government protesters. Today the news is heartening: the royal family has backed away from military intervention and the commander of the armed forces has appealed for calm and political dialogue. Jubilant protesters are back in Pearl Square in Bahrain’s capital.

News from other places, however, is not so good. Moammar Gadhafi’s ’empire’ continues to crack down hard on protesters in Libya. And Algeria, while less violent in recent days, still has police breaking up protests  and planned marches.

In the heady aftermath of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, hopes have been high for an end to the oppressive regimes of some of Egypt’s neighbors. And there is cause for hope – and jubilation – when oppressive regimes either fall or are compelled to change their ways.

But we must also recognize that in most cases the ’empire’ will strike back. And we must be vigilant in our own commitment to non-violence in the face of push-back from the powers-that-be. In this season of Epiphany we have seen the truth of this. When the magi came to Jerusalem to inquire of King Herod where the new king could be found, Herod lashed out with all his might. And whether  you take the story literally or metaphorically, the truth is the same: the powerful do not give up their power easily.

Push-back is to be expected. That, however, does not have to be a cause of despair. And it should not force us to resort to violence ourselves or support others who do. Our response as followers of Jesus is, first of all, to be realists about the ’empires’ of the world, even our own. Secondly, we must always give voice to the Way of peace and justice – for all people.

Military might is not ultimately the indication of the strength of a nation’s people. The people of Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, and all the other places crying out for reform need the support of those who are invested in non-violence. Even as our own nation is embroiled in two seemingly endless wars, as people of faith, we must speak out as followers of Jesus, who look to a higher power for our source of strength.

And we must keep on speaking out – until all the Herods of our time get the message.



  1. Courage to those that have the strength and spirit to defy their oppressors! Your names and what you have done will resonate, everlasting, through the halls of freedom.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: