John Paul II and Bin Laden never had the chance to meet but they both fought in the same front and Ronald Reagan was their example. The Pope and the Sheik provided the US president with spiritual ammunition against the “Evil Empire”. The Catholic Pope played his role in the first front in the East-West confrontation while Bin Laden carried out a second-front war of similar importance.
The Pope stirred up Polish nationalism, impregnated with Catholicism, and extended his influence to all Catholic regions of the European communist bloc. But this influence was not limited to Europe as it spread to Latin America where it fought a prickly battle against the “liberation theology” and against churches participating in social and national struggles. There, he supported the “Yankees”, the big landowners and military dictatorships against people who did not want to continue living in banana republics. John Paul II also faced the liberal Catholics of Western Europe. Thus, the church dissociated itself from the youth.
On the other side, during Breznev’s last years, the USSR stupidly invaded Afghanistan. Then, we witnessed the birth of the first national liberation movement with an Islamic ideology, which had the support of the United States who helped the most reactionary groups. For the United States, the Muslim Soviet republics were the Achilles’ heel of its rival and they provided an opportunity for a Viet Nam in reverse. Bin Laden was the symbol of these groups and he recruited thousands of young Arabs to fight “atheism”, which at the same time created the conditions necessary for the breaking of the alliance between Arab liberation movements and his international ally.
The Pope and Bin Laden favored the same policy. By winning these battles, the United States spread its influence to Eastern European countries but it abandoned Afghanistan to its fate. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Pope and Bin Laden distanced themselves from the United States. The Pope adopted a reformist speech in the regions under Washington’s attention and lost influence. During the same period, Bin Laden took advantage of the US’s aggressiveness in the Muslim-Arab world.

As Safir (Lebanon)

’Two Freedom Fighters’: John Paul and...Ben Laden”, by Joseph Samaha, As Safir.