21 May 2007 |
Posted by Lama Surya Das | 0 Comment.
The great spiritual activist and liberator of India Mahatma Gandhi said:
“How do you know if the next act you are about to do is the right one or the wrong one? Consider the face of the poorest and most vulnerable human being that you have ever chanced upon, and ask yourself if the act that you contemplate will be of benefit to that person; and if it will be, it’s the right thing to do, and if not, rethink it.”
I saw a touching and inspiring movie last night. Amazing Grace is about the British abolitionist activist Wilber Wilberforce (1759-1833) and the beginnings of the end of slavery, including the origins of the song Amazing Grace, which was written by a reformed slave ship captain who got religion and tried to atone for his sins by helping to end the slave trade. This fine film, released to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the date that the Parliament of the United Kingdom voted to ban the transport of slaves by British subjects, moved and inspired me to think about the prejudices we still harbor in the recesses of our own souls as well as in our society and our world, and what we might do about them. Go see it!
If you happen to think that slavery no longer exists in this, our postmodern technological world—think again! There is white slavery, sexual slavery, child slaves, serfs, and other kinds of enslavement gross and subtle still defiling our world.
From the Middle East to the United States, from Eastern Europe to South America, men, women, and children work in slavery or in slavery-like conditions. Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights group, claims that there are more than 200 million people in bondage. Indeed, some activists maintain that there are more people enslaved today than ever before.
One of the reasons that the problem is so little recognized is because slavery today bears little resemblance to the familiar images of whips, chains, and slave auctions that characterized slavery in the past. Slavery today involves human trafficking, forced labor, debt bondage, child labor, and forced prostitution. As stated by Charles Jacobs, president of the American Anti-Slavery Group, “Modern slaves can be concubines, camel jockeys, or cane cutters. They might weave carpets, build roads, or clear forests.” Although most slaves are no longer sold at public auctions, their lives are no easier than the lives of their predecessors. Indeed, for many slaves, conditions today are more miserable and dangerous than in the past. The most common form of slavery today is debt bondage or bonded labor. A person enters into debt bondage when his or her labor is demanded as a way to pay back a loan.
The great labor organizer and leader Eugene V. Debs once said, arraigned in court for his activities:
“Your honor, through realizing my kinship with all I feel that as long as there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is still a single soul in prison, I am not free.”