Summary: This message compares Osama to Saul (Paul), as one of the most hated and feared people in the world. Yet, even someone who has performed such evil, is not beyond the reach of God’s love and forgiveness.
He proclaimed a holy war against Christians everywhere. He uttered murderous threats toward anyone who claimed to be a follower of Christ. He captured and persecuted Christians, opposing all who followed Jesus. He even approved of and participated in mobs of people killing anyone who claimed to believe in Jesus.
He traveled throughout the Middle East region to capturing and killing Christians. But he wasn’t satisfied to just concentrate on forcing Christians out of a specific area, he wanted to eradicate all traces of Christianity throughout the world. And he did so with the full approval and support of government and religious leaders. So he planned campaigns to attack Christians everywhere.
Of course, you know who I’m talking about… the apostle Paul. Although at the time he was going by the name of Saul. Oh, that’s not who you thought I was talking about? Who were you thinking of? Osama bin Laden.
Okay, let’s talk about Osama for a few minutes. Osama bin Laden was born in 1957 as one of 50 children born to Mohammad bin Laden, one of the wealthiest construction businessmen in Saudi Arabia. So when his father was killed in a helicopter crash in 1968, all his wealth was divided between all the children.
Over the next several years, bin Laden explored the Islamic faith and became more and more militant in his desire to eliminate all foreign influence in the Muslim area in order to reintroduce young Muslims to the strict tenets of the faith. And he grew more and more militant and extremist as time went by.
When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979, bin Laden was one of thousands of Muslims who answered the call for jihad, or holy war, against what they saw as a godless power that had attacked their Muslim brothers in Afghanistan. So he traveled to a border town in Pakistan that served as the centre of the Afghan war effort, where he used the resources of his family’s company to organize and finance an active opposition to the Soviet Union.
By 1989, the Soviets were forced to end their occupation, and bin Laden was seen as a hero both in Afghanistan and in his home country of Saudi Arabia. It was then that he turned his attention toward the west and in particular the US. Even though the US had supported the Afghan struggle against the Soviet Union, bin Laden saw their influence and presence in the area as contrary to everything he believed in about the importance of Muslim independence.
This resentment was just magnified when the US landed troops in Saudi Arabia and in Kuwait in August of 1990 to begin Operation Desert Storm against Iraq. As he became more and more outspoken, even the Saudi government tried to silence him. So in April of 1991, bin Laden left Saudi Arabia to move to Sudan and eventually Afghanistan.
During this time, he took his inheritance estimated at $250 million and invested in several legitimate businesses and also began to expand al Qaeda, a network of veterans from the Afghan conflict and other Islamic militants. He also established a number of camps for the purpose of training and equipping terrorists from a dozen different countries. Al Qaeda formed links with several other Islamic fundamentalist groups placing bin Laden at the heart of an international coalition of Islamic radicals.
You know the rest. Over the next decade, bin Laden was linked to several terrorist attacks around the world, focusing on attacking US interests. We saw many of the news reports on our own TVs, even if the names of bin Laden and al Qaeda didn’t mean much to us at the time.
In 1992 he claimed responsibility for attempting to bomb US soldiers in Yemen. Two Austrian tourists were killed.
He was linked to a 1993 attack in Somalia which killed 18 American servicemen who were helping in the United Nations famine relief efforts.
Also in 1993, he was linked to the first World Trade Centre bombing which resulted in six dead and more than a thousand injured.
There was the 1996 bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan which killed 17 people.
On August 7, 1998, two bomb blasts devastated the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing a total of 224 persons and injuring several others.
In October of 2000, there was the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, which killed 17 persons. Bin Laden is suspected in this attack.
And of course he is the prime suspect in the attacks of September 11, 2001 which killed thousands and at least for a time changed everything.
And to top it all off, he’s been tied to several assassination attempts on people like Bill Clinton, the Pope, Jordan’s Crown Prince Abdullah, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.