Few people know that Gaddafi worked to open schools and universities for women, guaranteed freedom for them to leave home unaccompanied, developed the country's economy. He asked John Paul II for nuns who were nurses for Libyan hospitals. The appeal of Benedict XVI and Archbishop Martinelli to dialogue. With the end of Gaddafi the risk of Islamic fundamentalism grows.

Milan (AsiaNews) - The West has sided with opponents of the Muammar Gaddafi, who will have to choose between dying in a Tripoli reduced to rubble or accepting exile in a friendly country. At this point it is only a question of time, and is superfluous to recall what the Pope has said many times. And again yesterday, March 27, after the Angelus, Benedict XVI said: "Faced with the increasingly dramatic reports from Libya, my trepidation for the safety and security of civilians and my concern for the unfolding situation, currently signed by the use of arms, is growing. In times of greatest tension, the need to put to use all means available to diplomacy becomes increasingly urgent and to support even the weakest signs of openness and willingness on both sides involved, for reconciliation in search of peaceful and lasting solutions. In view of this, as I lift my prayer to the Lord for a return to harmony in Libya and the entire North African region, I also appeal to the international bodies and all those in positions of military and political responsibility, for the immediate start of dialogue and the suspension of the use of weapons".

The bishop of Tripoli, Mgr. Giovanni Martinelli (AsiaNews.it, March 25) adds: "The war could have been avoided. A few days before Sarkozy decided to bomb, there were some glimmers of hope for real mediation. But the bombs have damaged everything”.

Dictator since 1969, at first Gaddafi followed an anti-Western and anti-Italian line to the point of financing Islamic terrorism, extremist inspired Islamic mosques and madrassas around the world. He expelled from the 25 thousand Italians and other foreigners Libya who were the backbone of the economy and public services, reducing his people to misery. In 1986, Reagan bombed the six tents, inside the barracks, one of which housed the Libyan prime minister, who escaped by a miracle.

Isolated between pro-Western Egypt and Tunisia, he realized that the revolutionary line was destined to fail and so he gradually changed his policy: he may have continued to make revolutionary and anti-Western speeches, but in practice, especially after the economic embargo was removed in 1998 and the embargo on arms sales in 2004, he started a process of rapprochement to the West and, what is more important, the education of his people with schools and respect for the rights of man and woman .

I was in Libya in 2007 and have stayed in touch with friends. Gaddafi has used oil revenues to develop the country: roads, schools, hospitals, universities, low cost housing, the beginning of industrialization and agricultural development bringing water to the desert, up to a depth of 600-800-1.000 m! Two water systems (built by South Korean) taking water from the desert to the coast, 900 km to the north.

The Gaddafi regime is supported by the tribes of Tripolitania, it has fought those of Cyrenaica, a region that has rebelled and easily won power in Benghazi and other cities. A traditional rivalry that had already caused problems at the time of the Italian colonization. The recent uprising was not caused by poverty, such as those of Egypt and Tunisia, in fact, to date, of the many refugees from the Maghreb countries, no Libyan has fled from Libya, a sign that people were not so badly off. The revolt is led by tribal rivalries (the tribes are called "Kabila") and also from the oppression of a dictatorship that leaves no room for growth of popular involvement in politics and leadership of the country.

But we can not forget what the dictator has done: he sent girls to school and college, abolished polygamy and passed laws in favour of women in marriage: for example, he prohibited the use of keeping girls and women locked in the rooms and walled courtyard of the house. Above all, he controlled and kept in check Islamic extremism. A committee of Islamic scholars in Tripoli prepared religious texts in advance of Friday, sending them to all the mosques of the country, the imam had to read that text without adding or removing anything, on pain of loosing his position.

Until now there has been religious freedom in Libya. The 100 thousand Christians (no Libyans, all foreign workers in most part Egyptian Copts), albeit with many limitations, enjoy freedom of worship and assembly. Caritas Libya is a well respected agency and often asked to intervene in certain situations. Two exceptional circumstances. In 1986, Gaddafi wrote to Pope John Paul II asking for Italian nuns for hospitals. He built hospitals and clinics, but had not yet trained Libyan nurses. The request came from the good example of the two Italian Franciscan nurses who assisted Gaddafi’s father until his death. In Libya today there are about 80 Catholic nuns (mainly Indian and Filipino, but also Italian) and 10 thousand Catholic nurses from the Philippines and India, as well as many Filipino, Indian, Lebanese, Italian doctors. Archbishop Martinelli said to me: "The presence of these young Christian women, professionally trained, polite, attentive to the needs of patients caring for them with love, are changing the image of Christianity among Muslims." This is not allowed in any other Islamic country.

A second fact. I was in the desert at 900-1000 km. from Tripoli, where because of water pulled up from the depths of the earth the region is blooming. A lake of 35 km long and cultivated fields and towns, where 20 years ago there was nothing. The capital city in the region of Sabha has 80 thousand inhabitants, and is home to an Italian doctor and priest, Don Giovanni Bressan (Padova), was one of the founders of the central hospital. Don Bressan gathered to him many refugees from African countries south of the desert (Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, etc..) He founded a church, a school and a community centre for them. The Africans work and are paid for three or more years, remaining in the south, then when they have enough money they attempt to reach Italy! They do all kinds of jobs and are seen as honest and strong workers. Don Vanni (Giovanni) succeeds in stopping some families, others want to come to Italy, or Europe. The process towards full integration of Libya into the modern world and the Charter of Rights had begun. I am not defending Gaddafi and his dictatorship, but it does seem only fair to testify aspects of his rule that have been completely ignored in recent days.

On March 26, Magdi Cristiano Allam wrote about in the Italian newspaper “Il Giornale”: "In the war that has broken out in Libya and which sees Italy on the front line, the only real certainty, beyond the intentions of those who unleashed it, is that the Islamists will win and that, consequently, the populations of eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean will be increasingly submissive to sharia, the Islamic law that denies fundamental human rights and legitimises theocratic dictatorship. An outcome that is exactly the opposite of the official proclamations of Sarkozy and Obama and their excessive use of catchphrases such as 'freedom and democracy'. "

(Source: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Gaddafi-a-controversial-dictator-21141.html)