END SLAVERY NOW: Gary Haugen, Founder of The International Justice Mission to Speak at the Massey Theatre at Greenwich Academy. Oct. 15th, 7 pm.
Reprinted from Greenwich Time, Oct. 9, 2014.
“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you . . .” Deuteronomy 15:15
That was what God’s people were called to remember as a primary focus of their experience of God. Israel had been enslaved in Egypt and lived in that bondage for years upon years, but then there was redemption. God had brought them out of their slavery into new hope and possibility.
This is truly a core story of the Hebrew Scriptures, and it has shaped the faith of Judaism ever since.
It has also shaped the faith of Christianity. The life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth were centered on redemption and release from the things that held people in bondage. That is why he healed the sick, welcomed the outcast and proclaimed the freeing love of God over and over again. This was the experience of the sacrificial and self-giving love witnessed in the narrative of his crucifixion and the ultimate triumph of life over the tyranny and bondage of death in the experience of resurrection.
Yes, the redemption from slavery and bondage is truly a foundation and cornerstone of the faith and the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity.
But the issue of slavery and bondage has continued so broadly for human beings throughout history. There has been, and is, actual slavery present and terrible in every age. But thank goodness there has also been the clarion cry to release, redemption and freedom itself in every time. I am deeply thankful for those who witnessed against slavery in the British Empire and the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries. I regularly draw upon the stories of martyrs in my own Christian tradition, such as Dietrich Bonheoffer in Germany during the Nazi terror and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in our own country speaking against racist oppression. And I am so thankful, so very thankful, that we are a nation dedicated to freedom and liberty over tyranny and bondage.
But what a time it is in our world and in our own lives. It is estimated that some 30 million people are in some kind of involuntary servitude in the world today. We have heard horrendous stories of women and children taken into slavery in the troubled regions of Iraq and Syria even during these past few days. And we know that bondage is all too real in our own experience with potential captivity to substance abuse, material excess, destructive relationships and fear itself.
I believe that it is my call and our call as human beings to stand for freedom and release over bondage and oppression. One way to do this is through solidarity and community with others who stand for these values in the world.
One such organization is International Justice Mission, a trail-blazing organization for freedom and against bondage, and we have the great opportunity to hear from its president and leader, Gary Haugen, this coming Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. right here in Greenwich. Many of us representing educational, religious and service organizations in this community are sponsoring the event, “End Slavery Now,” which will be hosted at the Massey Auditorium of Greenwich Academy. Haugen has a powerful message about what is happening right now in our world and how people who are committed to justice, the rule of law, and courage to seek the release of enslaved human beings can make a huge difference. It is a story worth hearing and an evening inviting our participation.
Yes, there are ways we can stand for release and freedom in an age where there is still too much slavery. We can learn more and become more aware of both the realities around us and the opportunities for our action. This is important, and there is another dimension that is so important as well. It is the place and dimension of our own hearts and souls. We can go deep within our own selves to the places where we experience captivity, oppression and fear and look for release from those things.
Release and redemption. Liberty and freedom. We need these things and can have them within ourselves. We need these things and can be part of their growth in the world around us, too. Take a step for them this week.