“Order without liberty and liberty without order are equally destructive.” ~Theodore Roosevelt
Twenty one years ago today, Nelson Mandela was released from prison. His voice from liberty and freedom for his people could not be silenced. Tremendous that today as we mark that historic day, we are watching another historical moment unfold. The words of Roosevelt above are indeed powerful words. They are even more powerful as we watch the historic change unfold in Egypt. After 18 days of largely peaceful protest Hosni Mubarek has finally stepped aside. In twenty-four hours much has changed. Last night we heard from Mr. Mubarek that he would not step down. Today, he is gone. There are presently hundreds of thousands of people in Tahrir Square singing, celebrating, and rejoicing that there has been change. We have watched the youth of a nation move people from their armchairs to the streets to demonstrate peacefully for reform.
Over these past 18 days we have watched the world hold its breath in the midst of this. There are those in the West who spoke quite loudly when protests began calling for caution. Those voices valued order. This is a government that has been a friend and ally to the United States for many years. Order without liberty is destructive. There has been order in Egypt, but no liberty – that was what was being shown in word and action in the streets of Cairo, on Facebook, on Twitter, and on TV channels around the world. Those who have lived without that freedom are now celebrating the potential for liberty. Nobel Peace laureate and leading Egyptian democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei exclaimed, “This is the greatest day of my life, the country has been liberated after decades of repression.” To watch this unfold is indeed truly historic. What we have watched on live TV for 18 days now is the power of the human spirit to prevail in the face of oppression. Many have prayed and many have waited with anticipation for this day. One woman expressed that she felt “we have been reborn. There is such a feeling of unity and renewed patriotism.”
Now the challenge becomes finding a way to enjoy liberty and maintain order. As Teddy Roosevelt stated – Liberty without order is destructive. Now Egypt must do the hard work to work toward democracy and it will not be an overnight process. This change was brought about because the many interested parties were prepared to put differences aside to work toward the common goal they shared – a thirst for liberty and freedom. That spirit must now prevail. As the people of Egypt now unpack the last 18 days, and indeed the last 30 years, they must look expectantly into a future that will hopefully be defined by freedom; Free and fair elections, increased human rights, and sense of respect for the peace treaties that are in place with Israel and elsewhere will all need to be key components of liberty and a new democracy.
Twenty one years ago, we watched a great step forward for liberty for a people who had been pushed down for far too long. There was, in the mind of some in SA, order – but there was no liberty and that was dangerous. After Mandela’s release there was no doubt that Apartheid would end and it did. Again, there was fear and concern for what would happen if there were open and free elections for all people. Mandela and other worked hard to ensure that liberty did not mean a lack of order. It took much work, but it was worthwhile work that has changed the nation. Today we watch and wait to see that those who now hold power do what is necessary to create a civil government, chosen by the people and working for the people. There will be much work ahead. Our prayers will continue for the people of that historic nation as they face the days ahead. The words of Nelson Mandela can provide great guidance for the people Egypt. I offer two quotes:
“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Let peace prevail and may God be with all who strive for human rights, for peace and for freedom.