103. U2 - "Where The Streets Have No Name"

"Where the Streets Have No Name" is the opening track from U2's 1987 album The Joshua Tree and was released as the album's third single in August 1987. The lyrics were inspired by a story that Bono heard about the streets of Belfast, Northern Ireland, where a person's religion and income are evident by the street they live on. He contrasted this with the anonymity he felt when visiting Ethiopia, saying: "...the guy in the song recognizes this contrast and thinks about a world where there aren't such divisions, a place where the streets have no name. Maybe that's the dream of all art: to break down the barriers and the divisions between people and touch upon the things that matter the most to us all." Bono wrote the lyrics while on a humanitarian visit to Ethiopia with his wife, Ali Hewson; he first wrote them down on an airsickness bag while staying in a village. The open-ended nature of the lyrics has led to many interpretations. Journalist Michael Campbell believed the lyrics send "a message of hope" and wish for a "world that is not divided by class, wealth, race, or any other arbitrary criterion". 

I want to run
I want to hide
I want to tear down the walls
That hold me inside
I want to reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name

I want to feel, sunlight on my face
See that dust cloud disappear without a trace
I want to take shelter from the poison rain

Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name

We're still building
Then burning down love, burning down love
And when I go there
I go there with you
(It's all I can do)

The cities a flood
And our love turns to rust
We're beaten and blown by the wind
Trampled into dust

I'll show you a place
High on the desert plain

Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name
Where the streets have no name

Still building
Then burning down love
Burning down love

And when I go there
I go there with you
(It's all I can do)

This U2 track is essentially about persecution, it's about racial divides, it's about the ghettos and does not just reflect Belfast during the 1980's but across the world. It's a global issue. People who are persecuted for the colour of their skin or where they are born, persecuted for their nationality, or their religion. Persecution runs deep. It's this that Jesus is touching in this the eighth beatitude “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Jesus is giving hope to those who were enduring life at the hands of the oppression of the Roman state and the religious institution of  Judaism. In Matthew 5 Jesus identify with all who are persecuted. 

This beatitude focuses on the plight of those who are persecuted. This is a modern phenomena also throughout the world we see persecution on an epic scale. Jesus says "persecuted for righteousness" For doing right, more than that for doing "just" things, for making a stand against injustice, and corruption, for believing that the world can be a better place. Injustice, indifference, religious and racial tensions encircle the globe in mistrust, inbred inhumanity and violence. At the time the Joshua tree album was being produced and released (1987) there was tensions in Romania, a national and political storm was brewing which would result in civil war. It all came to head in 1989 when they world was aware of the civil unrest in Romania, by 17th December 1989 the president Nicolae Ceaușescu ordered his security forces to fire on anti-government demonstrators in the city of Timișoara and by 25 December 1989 Romaina was liberated from it's president and his wife by firing squad.

Ceaușescu had bled the country dry and had in the 1980s ordered the export of much of the country's agricultural and industrial production in order to repay its debts. The resulting domestic shortages made the everyday life of Romanians a fight for survival as food rationing was introduced and heating, gas and electricity blackouts became the rule. During the 1980s, there was a steady decrease in the Romanian population's standard of living, especially in the availability and quality of food and general goods in shops. During this time, all regional radio stations were closed, and television was limited to a single channel broadcasting for only two hours a day. 

In 1992 I took a trip to Romania as an aid worker and saw first hand what had become of this once great country. It had been reduced to abject poverty. I had visited Romania to take medical supplies basic baby foods and warm clothing to families who had nothing. I also sugared in bibles, lots of them, in Romanian as well. To cut a long story short I was invited to take a visit to Gherla prison on the outskirts of Cluj Napoca. This was one of the prison's that Richard Wurmbrand (Tortured for Christ) was imprisoned in. I was shocked at what I found and the experience will live with me for the rest of my life. The conditions were sparse, and out of date. It was here where for the first time I saw how, far humanity had stooped. Perhaps I may write about this more fully at another time. Gherla was the prison where Richard Wurmbrand was imprisoned for being a Lutheran pastor and for taking a stand against Romanian communism.

Wurmbrand was imprisoned for standing up to a regime that was cruel "Communism is not compatible with the Christian Gospel." is what Wurmbrand said and stood for.  Pastor Wurmbrand was to spend 3 years in solitary confinement in a cell that he could not stand up in, and in conditions where he was beaten and tortured daily in order to correct him and deny his faith. This was part of a 14 year sentence. In 1959 he was sentenced again to 25 years, Pastor Wurmbrand had been for some of that time in Gherla Prison where in 1992 I was now standing. I had the pleasure of preaching in the communist hall in the prison. The title of my sermon was "Jesus comes to free the prisoners" Luke 4. I had never come across persecution before in such a scale. I had heard about it. We had held prayer meetings in the church I was from about the "Suffering Church" I now had first hand experience of just how the church, the underground church was suffering. Many of the prisoners were political prisoners who stood against a corrupt and oppressive regime.

In the Matthew 5 "Beatitudes" Jesus was and is saying to all who are persecuted, "I know your struggles - I am with you."  "I know your pain - I am with you" "I know what you are going through take courage in me" He was not saying stop doing right things because the times are tough. He was truly saying do not give up standing up to power or standing up against injustice. There is a hidden call in this beatitude to "keep on keeping on", to take courage and to press on with transformation on an epic scale. Bono in the "Where the Streets Have No Name" identifies with this same struggle, hopes and dreams. Lets not get weary in doing good the bible says. 

For all who are persecuted in our world today may God bring strength to you brothers and sisters and enable you take continue to take your stand against evil regimes and people. Amen.

May we as the followers of Jesus continue to stand against all injustice of every kind, so that our world is transformed by the love and grace of Christ. We can start that today by taking a stand in our family, street neighbourhood. Moreover we can inspect our own lives to see if there are any ways in which we oppress others.

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