Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Freedom in the World

At last America has a black president in Barack Obama. It took the U.S. over 40 years to recognize the fact that colour of skin and race do not make a human being more of a person or less. The top executive power in the world's most powerful nation is now in the hands of a black man! But this did not come the easy way. In America, the segregation of blacks from white people was manifested bluntly when in December 1955 Rosa Parks, a black woman, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat in the bus to a white person. This was only part of the wider cultural and social conflicts. The Civil Rights movement moved in streams of blood for many years with violence and protests- The cries of black people echoed in the cry of Martin Luther King, Jr. "I have a dream" still reverberating in the air. In spite of his non-violent protest he was assassinated in 1968. The world has changed - slowly but surely. Historically, racism is the child of slavery. And slavery has been known since the earliest time of human race. It can be traced back to the earliest records such as the Hammurabi Code (1760 B.C.) and in ancient civilizations including the Egyptian, Somarian, Akadian and Greek civilizations. The main forms of slavery were debt-slavery and prisoners of war. It is said that great Greek philosophers, such as Aristotle, accepted that some people are slaves by nature. When Rome expanded its empire, slaves came from the invaded lands and many more slaves were used not only for labour slavery but also for entertainment such as gladiators and sex slaves. In the early medieval time, slave sex trade became common in the Eastern Muslim world and the Byzantine empire. But it was prohibited on moral grounds by the Catholic Church in Europe. In the 15th century Portugal became the first western nation to create the first slave market from Africa. Discoveries of the Americas brought more slaves from Latin America especially Brasil, and one third of those were resold to the African market for exchange of gold! Spain followed suit and the Spanish colonists were gradually involved in the Atlantic slave trade. The British empire played a prominent role in the “slave triangle”. However, the largest slave market was that created by the Arab slave trade which according to some historians, lasted over a millenium. It appears that at least 1 million Europeans were captured by the Ottomans and resold as slaves in the African market between the 16th and 19th centuries. However, human history is not that dark. According to the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, probably the oldest written account of liberating slaves, Moses liberated the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. The Jewish Law did not allow slaves to be sold out of Israel. In 539 B.C., Cyrus the Great of Persia freed the Jews and allowed them to return from their captivity. In modern times, much has been done to remove the perception that white people are superior to black people. Slavery was abolished from all western countries starting in 1808 in England, and followed by France and others but not completely in the U.S. until 1861. In 1948, the U.N. adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its statement: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms. In peer-reviewed encyclopedias it is stated that on May 21, 2001, the National Assembly of France passed the Taubira law recognizing slavery as a crime against humanity, and there were celebrations in 2007 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in the United Kingdom through the work of the British Anti-Slavery Society. Many people believe that we have really abolished slavery and that coloured people have already attained their freedom. Yet the world does not seem to be free. Even when the so-called dictators of the likes of Hitler and Stalin are no longer there, the world is still not free. Even when Communism has been extinguished, and the "free market" has dominated the world, it is still not free. If you do not believe me, let's look at some data and ask questions of freedom, slavery and, yes, death: > How many small businesses, (and large too), perished since globalization? > How many unborn children were legally aborted since the 1970s? > How many peoples and nations were slaughtered like animals only in the past 20 years? > How many Christians were persecuted and killed through violence in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East in the past 20 years, all in the name of God? > How many teenagers have grown slaves to the internet in the past 10 years? > How many adults and young adults have grown enslaved to the sexual revolution? > How many scientists have become slaves to what Professor John Polkinghorne calls "scientism"? > How many people have ended up enslaved to the stock market and lost their savings in the financial banking crisis that is still engulfing the entire world? Can we question slavery of contemporary humanity? According to the well-known anthropologist, René Girard, today there are three areas in which man is in danger: nuclear, terrorism, and genetic manipulation. “The twentieth century was the century of classic nihilism. The twenty-first will be the century of intriguing nihilism. C.S. Lewis was right when he spoke of the ‘abolition of man.’ Michel Foucault added that the abolition of man is becoming a philosophical concept. Today one cannot anymore speak of man. When Friedrich Nietzsche announced the death of God, in reality he was announcing the death of man. Eugenics is the denial of human rationality. If man is considered as mere and raw material belonging in a laboratory, a malleable and manipulable object, one may proceed to do anything to him. One ends with destroying the fundamental rationality of the human being. Man cannot be reorganized.” According to Girard, today we are losing sight also of another anthropological function, that of marriage. "A pre-Christian institution and valued by Christianity. Marriage is the indispensable organization of life, linked to the human wish for immortality. Creating a family is as if man were pursuing the imitation of eternal life. There have been places and civilizations in which homosexuality was tolerated, but no society has put it on the same juridical plane as the family. We have a man and a woman, namely always polarity.” Girard speaks of the obsession with sexuality. “In the gospels there is nothing sexual and this fact has been completely romanticized by contemporary gnostics. Gnosticism has always excluded categories of persons and turns them into enemies. Christianity is the complete opposite of mythology and gnosticism. Today there moves forward a form of neo-paganism. The greatest error of postmodern philosophy is to have thought that it could freely transform man into a machine of pleasure. From here devolves the dehumanization, beginning from the false desire to prolong life by sacrificing greater goods.” Now, at last, we come to realise the prophetic words of the Theology of the Body of Pope John Paul II. Refering to nakedness experienced by the first parents of humanity in primordial time, the pope indicates that in their original state, Adam and Eve had no barriers between them in their communication.They were free as children experience freedom. There is a lot of talk today about freedom. However what we mean is choice, not freedom. I choose to go to work, and do my shopping. These are choices that we make everyday. But freedom is deeper than mere choice. The experience is particularly strong when we do not "follow the crowd" and lose our freedom. Freedom means surrender to love and trust. This is the experience that little children have - they just trust everyone around them. This is why they can run naked. Christ invited his disciples to be like children in order to enter heaven. Original nakedness is the expression of true freedom. And only true freedom can beget true love. In freedom, one lets go of his own life in love for the other (human), and the "Other" (God). Freedom is a sign of the mature person. The more we love the more we become free. Apply these insights to today's social and economic systems and you can see the difference: > If spouses love each other and love their children as children love their parents, then families can be rebuilt. > If mothers love their conceived children, then we will practically eliminate abortion. > If families are rebuilt, then, by and large, society is re-energized. > If sexual relationships are changed to respect of the others' bodies, then our teenagers will be saved. > If individual selfishness is replaced with respect for moral values, then postmodern relativism will not only be defeated but rebaptised. "He who has ears to hear let him hear" (Jesus Christ in Matthew 11:15) References 1) Slavery in Wikipedia.Org 2) Theology of the Body made simple, by Anthony Percy, published by Pauline Books, 2005 3) Finkelman, Paul. Encyclopedia of Slavery (1999) 4) Gordon, M. Slavery in the Arab World (1989) 5) Jacqueline Dembar Greene, Slavery in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, (2001) 6) Postma, Johannes. The Atlantic Slave Trade, (2003) 7) Interview with René Girard in Il Foglio March 20, 2007, Roma, by Giulio Meotti 8) TodayQuestions.Blogspot.Com

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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