The Very Least of Our Brothers
I have mixed feelings about this news. It is news that challenges my very core Catholic Christian beliefs. There is no debate that Hussein was an evil man. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people were killed by his regime. Two of my in-laws fought in Desert Storm when he invaded Kuwait. To this day, if I want to draw tears to my eyes, I need only remember that morning when I heard the news that we were bombing Baghdad, and that the war had begun. The stress, fear, and anxiety that family have when their loved ones are in battle is indescribable.
Praise be to God that both of my brothers-in-law returned home from war. Both were highly decorated for their distinguished service. One was permanantly disabled and now lives under the constant care of his family. To look at him in his wheelchair, unable to feed or dress or take care of his personal needs, and to know that he's there in large part because of the decisions by Saddam Hussein, makes me want to feel good about the image of Hussein dangling from the end of a rope.
At the same time, I feel a touch of sadness. I don't know how authentic Hussein's relationship with God really was. His true faith was known only to Our Lord; however, he did express a very Christian sentiment shortly after his death sentence was upheld. Quoting here from an Associated Press news article, Hussein said in a letter:
"I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking. I also call on you not to hate the people of the other countries that attacked us. Remember that God has enabled you to become an example of love, forgiveness and brotherly coexistence."Was Hussein simply trying to elevate his own image and salvage some good for his own legacy by offering such a message? Perhaps. It's hard to imagine a man who was so egocentric his entire life to suddenly begin espousing charity. On the other hand, what if, in the many months he spent alone in prison, he had his own conversion experience? Oh I know it's a long shot, and I would have more faith in the authenticity of his statement had he also given a message of repentance for the evil he did. Yet, maybe that was truly the best he could do.
Accounts of the execution reveal that he went to the gallows carrying the Qur'an. How fitting that one who spent most of his life serving himself would carry a something created completely by man. One question that I have is did anyone ever share the Gospel of Christ with him? Did anyone ever try? If we are truly all God's idea, then, if nothing else for us Christians, Saddam Hussein was the very least of our brothers. His poverty was one of spirt. His destitution was in his soul.
I hate the evil that Saddam created, and I celebrate the fact that Hussein can no longer hurt anyone, but a part of me mourns the potential loss of any soul, and still another part of me rejoices in the possibility that the divine of mercy of Christ is big enough even to save such an impoverished man if he simply repents and asks for His love and His mercy. Did he do that in the moment that Christ called to him as he was dying at the end of a rope? My prayer is that he did. The way that I can conquer to the evil of Saddam is with the love of Christ. The way that I can help this man who is the epitome of being the very least of my brothers is to pray for his conversion.
Can I look at my brother-in-law, bound in a wheelchair and imprisoned in a body that no longer functions and say, "I forgive Saddam?" That is the measure of my own conversion to Christ. And that is also a prayer for myself; that one day I might be able to do that. I'm not there yet... but I know I want to be.