According to Philip Ross, “The series of student-led pro-democracy demonstrations spotlighted the Chinese Communist Party’s shortcomings and exposed deep divides within China’s leadership. Protesters took part in hunger strikes and sit-ins and occupied Tiananmen Square to call for an end to government corruption and to allow for more freedom of speech and press.”
Party leaders disagreed and viewed the protests as a “counter-revolutionary riot.” Subsequently, the military took dramatic action to squash the uprising. On the night of June 3 and the early hours of June 4, the military was ordered to enforce martial law in the country’s capital. The bloodshed that ensued remains one of the most sensitive subjects in Chinese politics and is something that the Chinese government has seemingly gone to great lengths to try and cover up. Conducting a search on the internet to find the death toll of this event revealed a wide variety of accounts. While the actual death toll of the massacre is apparently unknown, estimates place the number anywhere between a couple of hundred to as many as 2,600.
What happened to the "Tank Man" following the demonstration is not known. According to Wikipedia, the Tank Man, or the Unknown Protester, is the nickname of an anonymous man who stood in front of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, the morning after the Chinese military had suppressed the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 by force. Some say he was pulled away and went into hiding, others say he was executed by the authorities. Time Magazine dubbed him The Unknown Rebel and later named him one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century.
Not all of the protesters received the recognition and notoriety as did “Tank Man.” However, this incident touched the lives of a lot of people. I can only imagine the heartache of family members who lost loved ones during these days in 1989. The grief must have been overwhelming.
The freedom we enjoy in the United States of America is not something to take for granted. There is evidence all around which reveals the delicate balance between freedom and security, sovereignty and service, competition and cooperation, prosperity and philanthropy. If balance is not successfully maintained and corrupt power takes over, the results are disastrous. History has demonstrated these ill-effects time and time again.
I sometimes get questions about the delicate balance of mixing politics and faith. What is the role of a person of faith in the public arena? Do we get engaged in civic activities beyond the voting booth? How do effectively “give to Cesar what is Cesar’s and give to God what is God’s?” Where do we draw the line?
Obviously, we each have a responsibility to grow in wisdom and grace before God. We have a duty to be faithful witnesses of Jesus Christ. Thus, I ask you, if people of faith withdraw completely from the public arena what is the impending result? Do we not want Christian believers to have a role in shaping our society beyond the walls of the local church, or are we content with God being removed from our government, our schools, and other public institutions? If non-Christians, agnostics, and atheists are the only ones involved in shaping the dialogue for our nation what will happen to the vision of our Founding Fathers? What will happen to our freedom?
Furthermore, tolerance for aberrant behavior in our country continues to grow and it is actually celebrated and encouraged in many circles. Tolerance for people of faith, on the other hand, seems to be in rapid decline. Anyone, especially Roman Catholics and Evangelical Christians, supporting traditional values are frequently maligned, ridiculed, and labeled as haters for expressing their beliefs and opinions. If this trend continues at the current pace, it won’t be long before we witness a dramatic loss of freedom. This will go well beyond religious freedom.
The 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square gives us reason to pause, reflect, and pray. Hopefully, it reminds us of the privileges we enjoy in our country and also of the corresponding responsibilities that go along with it. May we truly strive to be that which we pledge, “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”