In 2004 Victor Yushchenko stood for the presidency of Ukraine. Vehemently opposed by the ruling party.
Yushchenko’s face was disfigured and he almost lost his life when he was mysteriously poisoned. On the day of the election, Yushchenko was comfortably in the lead. The ruling party, not to be denied, tampered with the results.
The state-run television station reported, “ladies and gentlemen, we announce that the challenger Victor Yushchenko has been decisively defeated.” In the lower right-hand corner of the screen, a woman by the name of Natalia Dmitruk was providing a translation service for the deaf community. As the news presenter regurgitated the lies of the regime, Natalia Dmitruk refused to translate them.
“I’m addressing all the deaf citizens of Ukraine” she signed. “They are lying and I’m ashamed to translate those lies. Yushchenko is our president.”
The deaf community sprang into gear. They text messaged their friends about the fraudulent result and as news spread of Dmitruk’s act of defiance increasing numbers of journalists were inspired to likewise tell the truth. Over the coming weeks the “Orange Revolution” occurred as a million people wearing orange made their way to the capital city of Kiev demanding a new election. The government was forced to meet their demands, a new election was held and Victor Yushchenko became president.
When I reflect on the story behind the orange revolution, the image of a small screen of truth in the corner of the big screen became for me an ideal picture of the Christian call.
In Jer 26: 11-16, Priests and Prophets conspired against Jeremiah, simply because he held to the Truth, he called for repentance and return to God. In Matt 14:1-12, John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod because he spoke out the truth, he condemned the sinful relationship of Herod and his brother’s wife, Herodias.
The most difficult people to say the truth to are, those in authority and our close friends. Sometimes, we lie to these people a lot, so as to curry favour from them or maintain their friendship. We flatter, play sycophancy and sell our integrity just for a bowl of stew.
As a Christian, I have to ask myself this question: can I speak out for the Poor, the oppressed, the minor, in the face of an authority that will punish my body for speaking the truth? I have heard a lot about speaking the truth with diplomacy. Well, I don’t understand it, because truth does not need any painting or spices, to make it taste good. Truth has no taste. If it is not a truth, it is not a truth.
Lies can control the big screen, but like Natalia Dmitruk of Ukraine, try to control the small screen. It’s a whole lot of risks, but then the reward of John the Baptist would be yours. Of John, the Baptist Jesus said, “Truly I say on to you, of all men born of a woman, no one is greater than John…” Herod was later dethroned, he lost all his wealth and went to exile with Herodias in Gaul.
Just speak out!