In spite of my lack of knowledge of some of the past award recipients, one of the nominees for this year's award has gotten my attention. I have also found myself challenged by his story. I want to talk about his story a little bit, and let me begin by saying this: there is little doubt that last year's award was not given because of anyone's accomplishments to bring a greater measure of peace to our world. Instead last year's award was given to a politician in order to persuade him to act a certain way. I don't say that to criticize last year's recipient, but rather to express disappointment with those that made last year's decision.
This year could not be more different, at least as it concerns the gentleman who appears to be the front runner to receive the award. His name is Liu Xaobo. He has been nominated because of his work promoting human rights in his home country of China, which has made him an enemy of the Chinese government. So much so that China has warned the nation of Norway that if Mr. Xaobo is awarded this year's prize, it will strain their international relationship. China's government is largely communist, and they regard Mr. Xaobo as a criminal. As a matter of fact, he is currently serving an eleven year prison sentence and will not even be able to receive his award in person, if he wins.
Personally, I think it is refreshing that someone who has a track record of actually fighting for peace is leading the pack of nominees, as opposed to someone who may prove to be politically expedient in the future, as was the case last year. However, this is where I am being challenged. Whether or not he wins the prize, Mr. Xaobo has my respect. He is in prison and is an enemy of his own government for fighting for what he feels is right and just. I wonder how many Americans in our current society feel so strongly about something that they would risk prison to stand for it? How many of us witness injustice everyday and quietly stand by or turn our heads and cross to the other side of the street?
There are some countries right now that have just held elections and the large majority of their citizens showed up to vote, even though they risked death to do so. In comparison, a much smaller percentage of Americans take the time to vote, even though we don't risk anything more than missing our favorite restaurant for lunch that day. We live in an age when information is readily available to all of us, but how many of us even know who our local candidates are and where they stand on important issues. I am afraid that many of us have lost a very important perspective. It has been said that a person is not truly living until he or she finds something that is worth dying for. As followers of the Lord Jesus, I'm sure that most of us believe that, if we had to make the choice, we would die for our Christian beliefs. That's great, but right now we are not being called to die for Him - we are being called to live for Him!
This is a time that is like no other in our nation's history. All around us there is moral decay, political corruption and the lines between right and wrong have never been so unclear. Like Mr. Xiaobo, we need to stand up for our convictions and re-draw that line in the sand. If we don't, nobody will. This world and this nation will look very different in ten years - I think it's up to us to determine how it will look. It's our decision, and we will decide by our action or else by our indifference. Which will it be?
"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Just as we shall give account for every idle word, so shall we give account for every idle silence." - Benjamin Franklin