There are many dark pages in the history of the 20th century. Caught between the regimes of Hitler and Stalin was the Poland where Karol Wojtyla came of age.
In 1978, Wojtyla was named Pope John Paul II. Few outside his country knew who he was, but he immediately began using his influence as a global leader to bring about a peaceful revolution.
His message was quite simple. He told people that they are loved and sacred. He told them to embrace their dignity as human beings, and to stand together in peace for justice and freedom.
It did not take long for workers to organize in his native Poland, and “Solidarity” became a powerful force. The government tried in many ways to crush this movement, but it only continued to expand.
By the end of the 1980s, the Iron Curtain had collapsed and the world was changed forever.
While no leader and no institution is perfect, it is clear that John Paul II was the right leader for his time. No one but an Eastern European given a position of global leadership could have championed a movement to overthrow the powerful communist regime.
It is significant to note the similarities of the peaceful movements which overcame oppressive governments in the 20th century and brought about lasting change. Gandhi, King and Mandela also had clear visions, and messages of personal empowerment, forgiveness, courage, acceptance and love.
Looking at the problems facing the world today, it is important to see beyond the issues and apply what has worked in the past. As we move into the future, the words of John Paul II ring clearly, “Be not afraid.”