Pastor General's Report


Years ago the opening of a popular U.S. folk song began: "They're rioting in Africa, there's strife in Iran." I don't recall if the lyrics mentioned Nicaragua, but nevertheless, the song was most prophetic of today's headlines.

In Africa, Rhodesia's situation becomes more desperate by the day. About a month ago, Prime Minister Ian Smith held a secret meeting in Zambia with Joshua Nkomo, one of the two guerrilla leaders attempting to wrest control of Rhodesia (or Zimbabwe as it will be called in the future) away from the new black-white interim government.

The Smith-Nkomo talks broke down, however, and shortly afterward Nkomo's guerrillas, using a Communist made ground-to-air heat-seeking missile, shot down a civilian Air Rhodesia airliner over guerrilla-infested territory. Thirty eight people perished. Another ten survivors of the crash were massacred by guerrillas on the ground, who mowed them down point blank with Russian AK-47 automatic rifles.

Prime Minister Smith, in an emotional television address to his nation, has vowed to intensify the ant~-guerrilla struggle. He has again warned neighboring Zambia and Mozambique about harboring the guerrilla "freedom fighters." The U.N., the U.S. and Britain have urged Rhodesia to "show restraint" in raids on guerrilla bases in the two countries. of course, whenever Rhodesia counter-attacks, it is condemned in the United Nations.

Smith put a lot of blame on the 'leaders of the neighboring "frontline" states for blowing the cover on his secret talks with. Nkomo. These leaders do not want a peaceful solution, are backing the guerillas full-tilt, and are abundantly opposed to Rhodesia's whites having any role whatsoever in a future black-majority government.

Smith said that Tanzania's President Julius Nyrere — admired in many circles as almost a god-figure among Africa's leaders — is largely to blame for the latest sad turn of events. Nyrere helped torpedo his talks with Nkomo, Smith said, because of his "implacable hatred of the white man." Meanwhile, because· of the intensifying warfare, the exodus of whites out of Rhodesia grows greater every month.

Space does not permit a detailed description of the turmoil gripping Nicaragua — except to say that the effort to topple Pres-ident Anastacio Somoza is now being led by urban leftist guerrillas of the so-called Sandinista National Liberation Front. True to form in case after case in other revolutions, the better organized Marxists have stepped in to lead the fight which originally began as a broad-based discontent uniting many factions from businessmen to students. Many now fear that Nicaragua will become another Cuba.

Turning to Iran, this pivotal oil-rich nation is experiencing its worst riots-ever in the 37-year reign of its current Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. After nearly a year of sporadic protests, demonstrations and isolated terrorist attacks, full-scale street battles have erupted in the wake of the imposing of martial law in Teheran and 11 other cities in an attempt to restore order. It is clear now that the Shah is locked in a desperate struggle to hold his throne. The big question is whether Iran's armed forces will stay loyal to the Shah — or take power into their own hands.

The Shah is opposed by a loose union of anti-government factions. On the one hand are the Shah's leftist and liberal opponents who want to see rapid political change in the country. This faction includes numerous leftist underground terrorist groups with possible Soviet backing.

On the other hand are arch-conservative Moslem leaders of the traditional Shiite sect — backed by hundreds of thousands of followers — who demand the Shah's overthrow in the name of religion and a return to government by Islamic law. They oppose the Shah's ongoing social liberalization programs aimed at loosening the Moslem clergy's traditionally firm grip on the country. Such reforms include a plan to redistribute church lands to farmers and give more social and political rights to women. (Rapid material growth fueled by Iran's $23 billion-a-year oil revenues has eroded old traditions and promoted modernization and Westernization in the country.)

Iran's chief Moslem leader, exiled Ayatollah Khomeini — whom many Moslems would like to see in charge of the nation instead of the Shah — proclaimed recently from his headquarters in Iraq: "There will be no monarchy, but the rule of Islamic law. The clergy will sit in council and rule by virtue of its wisdom."

Some of the leftist groups loosely allied with the Moslem zealots in their opposition to the Shah are worried that the ascendancy of the Islamic movement might eventually dwarf their objectives of restoration of basic liberties in the country, resulting in a virtual church dictatorship. But for the moment, the anti-Shah groups remain united in their opposition to the monarchy.

The Shah has charged that an "international conspiracy" is trying to destroy Iran as a bastion of the West and guardian of its oil supplies. Iran is a major supplier of petroleum to many Western nations. In addition, she supplies some 30% of Japan's oil needs and virtually all those of Israel. The fall of the pro-Western Shah could have dire consequences for these and other countries including the Shah's main foreign supporter, the United States. It is a situation to watch closely.

— Gene H. Hogberg, News Bureau

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Pastor General's ReportSeptember 11, 1978Vol 2 No. 35