The pillar of freedom unites 123 countries around the world in the institution called democracy. Whether each of these countries is truly democratic and whether the definition of freedom is truly met within a democracy are two topics up to debate; however, freedom still remains the most coveted right that few are lucky to have. Three billion people out of the 6.6 billion on the planet are said to have this privilege yet few acknowledge its role in their lives unless it is threatened. Even then, the meaning behind the word freedom becomes skewed and self-serving as demonstrated in the greater protest against SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act presented in the US, in comparison to human trafficking. By taking time to appreciate our freedom, we can better define it not only for ourselves, but for the rest of the world and thereby assist its spread to all corners of the globe.
Every year at the start of spring, Jewish people celebrate Passover, a holiday in commemoration of the Israelites’ liberation from the land of Egypt by God. Although Passover can be seen solely as a form of reinforcement in the belief in God, the true purpose lies in acknowledging how fortunate the Jewish people are to be free and pray for those who are not so lucky. Passover encourages Jews to wear the cloak of freedom on their shoulders with pride not arrogance as well as to understand the true make of that cloak. Discussions concerning the true meaning of freedom are encouraged, from the most literal sense – a lack of handcuffs and political oppression – to the modern sense – the permission to marry whom one chooses regardless of gender and to download pirated copies of media. We even see freedom in the small things such as the ability to slouch as the pharaohs did in the olden days of Egypt.
In the case of interfaith, we have the freedom to practice our own respective religions and to discuss theological ideas with other faiths. These first two aspects of Passover – that of identifying the privilege of freedom and that of discussing its meaning – would be wonderful if implemented in democratic societies across the world. One may argue that Independence Day celebrations across the world provide proof enough that counties acknowledge and value their freedom, but, if my own experience is any indication, such days serve more as an excuse to party rather than to ponder. Living in first-world societies where the greatest detriment of the day may be the lack of fresh produce at the supermarket or the less-than-satisfactory grade on a midterm exam, it’s difficult to imagine the lives of people in other countries who do not have the ability to choose the food they eat or the privilege to attend school. In stepping back and looking at their freedom-laden lives, democratic peoples will be able to see how lucky they are and hopefully gain a new perspective on life – perhaps learning to let go a little. The third and, in my opinion, most important, aspect of Passover corresponds with reaching out and trying to make a difference.
In the interfaith world, making connections with others and putting words into actions are two incredibly important steps. During Passover, Jews are encouraged to donate to foundations that work to end human trafficking and volunteer at organizations to liberate others from hunger and illiteracy. Nearly every form of community service can be seen as a way to promote some aspect of the overall umbrella of freedom, but to me the most important is literal liberation. As portrayed in the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, several basic needs must be met before the more psychological needs can be addressed and, in the same way, certain freedoms must be met before others can be addressed. Before one can be concerned with freedom of speech, one must first be physically liberated. Even within the “land of the free”, as many as 17,500 people are smuggled each year; outside of the United States, the numbers are only higher. With the many problems that riddle our world, human trafficking does not always come to mind. It is easy to forget that the liberation of the entire world still has a few more years to go.
What is even more difficult to imagine is that fact that many of us contribute to the slave-trade throughout the world, perhaps not directly but indirectly. I was shocked when I recently discovered that I have an estimated 35 slaves working for me across the world. To calculate your own Slave Footprint visit slavefootprint.org. Although difficult to tackle, human slavery can be overcome. The following are a few organizations that work to liberate the rest of the world: Dream Project Foundation, Love146, and Not for Sale. If you have the time or the financial ability, please donate to these organizations in hope of sprouting a better world or even do your own research. Albert Camus once said that “Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better”. If you have freedom, don’t just take it for granted, use it to not only better yourself, but others and the world.
What was your slave footprint? Share in the in the comments below….