“For to be free is not merely to cast offs ones chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others” .Nelson Mandela Human rights day
Today, 22nd March, is Human Rights day in South Africa
I have the choice to remain silent and say nothing so that I don’t offend others or to speak my mind. Having had the opportunity of exploring my heritage and roots I can truly say that I have the DNA of the ‘oppressor’ and the ‘oppressed’. Literally slave blood and governors blood runs through my veins. I am not wanting to cast blame at any specific group. I have come to the conclusion that none of us can sit on our high horse and point the finger while thinking we are better than another group because at some point in history every group has taken a turn at lording it over some other group.
Reflecting on my history has brought home to me how politics and world history has wrecked havoc everywhere and I feel like I want to ask forgiveness of those who have been oppressed, especially in my part of the world. The oppressors of the world are/were many parties who oppressed for selfish gains. It makes me feel very sad and ashamed on the one hand and yet on the other hand there is a part of me that has to also say “I forgive you for the oppression that was wrecked against my family in the long gone past.”
I know that for most of you this is inconsequential but as this is Human Rights day in South Africa and I have been pondering over the importance of acknowledging where we have come from and how we have got where we are today. We all have rights no matter what group or culture or religion, or race, or sex etc. but I think it often lands up being the selfish against the selfless; the strong against the defenseless; the rich against the poor and the sentiment seems to be “so long as I am comfortable I won’t really bother about making changes.”
I am proud of Nelson Mandela and want to honor what he did and went through to help towards human rights in our country. Just in case you don’t know who he is here is the conclusion of his speech at the Ravonia Treason Trial:
I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, My Lord, if it needs to be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.—Nelson Mandela at the conclusion of his speech
We need to be constantly holding ourselves accountable for change to take place. If we look at the world: Are there people without clean water? YES. Are there people without food? YES. Are there people without sanitation or education? YES. Are there people who have no say about their own bodies? YES. Is there still child labor and slavery? YES! And so we can’t rest easy till every human life is respected.
One of the tragedies of our life is that we keep forgetting who we are”– Henri Nouwen
This statement can be taken in so many ways: but this evening I suggest we remember who we are and live up to who we are meant to be. We are born to be in community and live in peace and love; we are born to celebrate life and to reach out to each other; we are born to live in harmony, at one with the earth and its people. I think one of the tragedies, for many of us, is we so often don’t want to care because we have been trained by a selfish social system.
That is what’s on my heart and mind tonight, pass the care onto others.