For many it has been a most beautiful year; for many others it is a year not to recall. For many it is probably an admixture of the last two statements; yet for some others it is just another year gone by, simple and uneventful. Whichever of the category we belong to, the truth remains that 2014 has gone by. 2015 has just begun.
As I pen down these thoughts on this first day of the new year, the words of Pope Francis for the celebration of this year’s World day of Peace (“No longer slaves but brothers and sisters”) come anew to me. Francis explores the concept of slavery in its entire ramifications and how it contrasts with the freedom and peace that God wills for the human person.
It could be a moral slavery in which we battle with the stronghold of sins in our lives; or in the form of political slavery in which the people of any given society are not emancipated but are rather misruled and subjected to a life of poverty and indignity. It could even be a more visible slavery in which a particular set of people are derided, castigated and disdained; or this very vicious modern slavery in which some groups have embarked on a project of religious fanaticism and anarchy which is at best nothing but terrorism.
Whatever form of slavery it be, 2015 calls for a re-appraisal of those sharp and meaningful words: “No longer slaves but brothers and sisters.” There is so much for each one of us to do to achieve Christ’s vision of no longer do I call you servants but friends (John 15:15).
2015 begins today and beckons on the millions of individuals who have been working for the liberation and well-being of peoples everywhere, near and far, to realize how much they are making the world a better place to live for all.
2015 begins today and calls for a sprouting of the likes of Stella Adadevoh, Kevin Vickers, Malala Yousafzai, and several thousand individuals who give all they can (indeed all they are) to the realization of the same laudable vision of ensuring freedom, peace and safety of our world.
2015 begins today and lauds our many and collective daily efforts in constructing a world of fraternity where there are more smiles and chuckles of contentment, and where the burden of division and hate are discouraged.
From the other angle however, 2015 begins today and offers leaders of countries and societies, powerful people who are decision makers but whose singular decisions have ruined millions of lives and subjected tens of millions of people to poverty and slavery, another chance to begin anew.
2015 begins today and offers parents who find it difficult to patiently accompany their children on the painful path of growth but rather seek comfort in bullying or in a complete abandonment of their wards another chance to begin again. It gives them a chance to set these children free from slavery.
2015 begins today and offers terrorists who cause mayhem worldwide: kidnapping, maiming and killing the innocent, a chance to begin anew and, first of all set themselves free from this most unfortunate slavery, and thereby be able to liberate the other children of God who have been called to be friends and not slaves.
2015 begins today and offers employers and custodians of people in all works of life everywhere another chance to treat all with dignity, to desist from opportunistic maneuvering of their workers and those in their charge, to recognize every human person as an imago dei (God’s image).
2015 begins today and calls us to remember that we are no longer slaves but brethren, brothers and sisters called together in the love of one God and Father.
Our path to securing and protecting our freedom from slavery as well as the freedom of all in the society differs from one person to another. Maybe for a person in the middle east it entails a greater labour for religious freedom; for a person in Nigeria it surely entails a conscious and wise choice in the forthcoming election, seizing the unique opportunity which this time is offering the nation for a change which is long overdue; for someone in the Western world, it might mean a greater re-appraisal of the value of life in the face of the dehumanization which consumerism and a culture of self-sufficiency surreptitiously foist on the average Western psyche daily.
Whatever that path might be, 2015 calls on each of us to break down those different walls which hold us and, through our in-actions or bad actions, hold others slaves. It bids us to act concretely to break down these oppressive walls, and not merely wish them away or pray that they might melt by some miracles which are anxiously sought these days.
Let us, each in his and her own way in the year 2015, work on these several areas which still enslave us and enslave our brethren who are dear to God, indeed who are God’s friends.