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My wife likes to read obituaries. Seems a little ghoulish to me, but sometimes we find out about the passing of old friends or neighbors and get a chance to go pay our respects. More often, though, she is just reading about dead strangers. Every now and then she sees a life that sounds inspiring and shares it with me. Recently she showed me the obituary of a man from town named Iulian Pop who passed away at age 83.
An excerpt from the obituary reads:
Born in Romania in 1938, Iulian lost the best years of his life because he was imprisoned in his 20s – for reading the Bible. He escaped in January 1982 and emigrated to the United States. When Iulian arrived, he had $10 in his pocket and was granted political asylum. For Iulian, this country was truly the land of opportunity, and in two years he bought a house and eventually started his own machine shop company
What they sum up there is 75 words must be several books worth of stories. First, to be imprisoned for reading the Bible? Romania was communist at the time and communist countries always seem to view faith as a threat. If you are familiar with the group Voice of the Martyrs, their founders Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand were both imprisoned and tortured by the Romanian government for their faith in Jesus Christ. I read Pastor Wurmbrand’s Tortured for Christ and can only imagine what Mr. Pop went through during his time in prison.
Then in 1982, he escaped. Not released, but escaped. With communist countries, you didn’t just have to escape the prison but the country itself was a type of prison, in that the government knew many would willingly leave if allowed. Mr. Pop then came to America with basically nothing and had a successful life. The American dream.
When my wife points out one of these “only in America” type stories, she often does so with sadness. She will say, “We lost another good one and the ones they are being replaced with just don’t get it.” I know, people have been complaining about the younger generations since the beginning of time. But reading this man’s story, there are things that someone from my generation would understand that younger people may not.
Having grown up in the ’70s and ’80s, I see a story about a man jailed for his faith and think, “Of course, communism is evil.” “Of course, America is the land of opportunity.” Even most Democrats agreed with that. The idea that someone could be locked up for reading the Bible was something I could never imagine happening this side of the Iron Curtain. I don’t believe younger Americans feel that way.
A few years back I heard college protestors yelling, “no free speech for hate speech.” And who exactly determines what is hate speech? Would the people chanting that hesitate to lock up people for reading and/or preaching parts of the Bible? I don’t think so. Do the people skipping down the road towards socialism not understand where that road ends? Do they care?
Rest in peace, Mr. Pop. I didn’t know you at all, but I now admire you. And your obituary shows us the very human side of the Cold War. The right side won that battle, but will we squander that victory?Published in