The Fragility of Freedom

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I have a friend – let’s call her Nadia. “Nadia” is a good choice for her assumed name. It could be Arabic. It could be Slavic. Nadia could be Jewish. She might come from somewhere in Africa.  Nadia lives in Bath. Her family, however, live in daily danger of something falling out of the sky that will blow them all to pieces. Her family are scattered. Some of them are dead. The future is incredibly frightening. Do you know someone like Nadia? There’s a very good chance you do. If you don’t actually know her, you might be sitting next to her.

Freedom – Wikipedia calls it “the power or right to act, speak, and change as one wants without hindrance or restraint” - is a fragile thing. For someone like Nadia, whose world has been turned upside down, that fragility is a daily reality. The fragility of freedom will be the subject of reflection for those observing Holocaust Memorial Day this year on 27th January. It’s a day that remembers the deaths of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. In recognition that the Holocaust was not the last and final mass extermination, the day has been extended to remembering other genocides that have taken place since then.

So – how to protect freedom? Many of us feel so helpless, so impotent to resist the enormous forces which limit freedom and threaten human existence itself.  Despair never helps.

Nadia is a person of great faith. She prays deeply and powerfully. She is entering intensely into her faith, praying for her loved ones, praying for the end of conflict.  She comes from a different faith tradition, but I think she’d agree with this quote from the Christmas sermon preached at Bethlehem this year by the Uniate Patriarch, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa:

“We... must return to God and to His love. We must go beyond the social and political explanations of violence and subjugation of others. These phenomena are ultimately rooted in having forgotten God, having made a false image of His face, and having used a fake and utilitarian religious relationship with Him… If we are unable to call brothers our fellow men, neither will we be able to call God our “Father”.[1]

Each of us has the ability to build freedom by building a relationship with the person right next to us. You might like to look at these statements by world faith leaders to get ideas and inspiration:   The opening speaker gives us a good lead:

“We are called to look into one another’s eyes in order to see more deeply and in order to see the beauty of God in every living human being”

I’d like to suggest that a first step we can take to protect freedom in our fragile world, is right where we are, to look into Nadia’s eyes.

Mother Sarah


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