Last week, Jews around the world celebrated Passover. It is a holiday that marks freedom from their bonds of slavery three millennia ago…
The author begins with a Passover reading from the Haggadah: “Had not the holy One liberated our people from Egypt, then we, our children and our children’s children would still be enslaved to Pharaoh in Egypt.”
The time of the exodus from Egypt, also commemorates the beginning of the Jewish nation. They were so entrapped in bonds of slavery that they needed G-d Himself to extricate them from Pharaoh’s physical and psychological stranglehold and deliver them to their new status as free people in every sense of the word.
A slave only concerns himself with his or her own survival: He or she does not have the ability to extend himself to thoughts of others while his own existence is threatened. That is one way masters strip slaves of their humanity. In Primo Levi’s work “Is this a man?” that was recently released in a new modified translation, he describes the loss of the feeling of being human that was associated with a Nazi work camp. And so it was only when the Jews became free people as Levi did that they regained their human consciousness and were able to reach beyond themselves to participate in commandments and activities involving their extended families, neighbors and the larger community.
The author recognized that the celebration is tempered in knowing that there are still so many in the world who are not free. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center says, “There are an estimated 20.9 million people trapped in some form of slavery today.” The Center lists six forms of modern-day slavery: domestic servitude; sex trafficking; forced labor; bonded labor; child labor; and forced labor.
Today there are many oppressors we know by household names like ISIS and Boko Haram, but so, so many others are hiding in the shadows.
Several situations of modern slavery are noted:
–ISIS’s rape of victims and their insistence that the woman take forced birth control so as not to violate Islamic law.
–The schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram fighters.
–The ten million bonded laborers in India.
And the author states: Lest we believe that modern-day slavery is rampant only in faraway lands, such as the tribal regions of Afghanistan or Nigerian forests, the reality is far more troubling. Last year a report by the Urban Institute and Northeastern University found forced labor is, in actuality, rampant in the United States. …Not only is slavery a global problem, it is hyper-local.
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