When I was growing up, my parents tried hard to teach me empathy for the oppressed and suffering by encouraging me to “put myself in their shoes.” When I was young, I wasn’t often successful in my attempts to put myself in the place of another. Even now, my attempts are so feeble and lame at times. But the question continues to challenge me daily…”What if it was me? Or, “What if it was my daughter, or son, etc?”
Photo by Jennifer Hamilton
Answering these questions jolts us out of looking at the sexual slavery and exploitation of children as only an “issue: or a “cause” and makes it personal. When we recognize that there are real people behind causes or issues it changes the equation. When we force ourselves to see these children as our own…MY daughter, MY son, MY sister, MY brother… our level of engagement changes.
Abolitionist, Theodore Weld said it powerfully when he wrote the following regarding slavery way back in 1839;
“You have common sense, and conscience, and a human heart;--pronounce upon it. You have a wife, or a husband, a child, a father, a mother, a brother or a sister—make the case your own, make it theirs, and bring in your verdict. The case of Human Rights against Slavery has been adjudicated in the court of conscience times innumerable. The same verdict has always been rendered—“Guilty;” the same sentence has always been pronounced, “Let it be accursed;” and human nature, with her million echoes, has rung it round the world in every language under heaven, “Let it be accursed. Let it be accursed.” His heart is false to human nature, who will not say “Amen.” There is not a man on earth who does not believe that slavery is a curse. Human beings may be inconsistent, but human nature is true to herself. She has uttered her testimony against slavery with a shriek ever since the monster was begotten; and till it perishes amidst the execrations of the universe, she will traverse the world on its track, dealing her bolts upon its head, and dashing against it her condemning brand. We repeat it; every man knows that slavery is a curse. Whoever denies this, his lips libel his heart. Try him; clank the chains in his ears, and tell him they are for him. Give him an hour to prepare his wife and children for a life of slavery. Bid him make haste and get ready their necks for the yoke, and their wrists for the coffle chains, then look at his pale lips and trembling knees, and you have nature's testimony against slavery.”
Photo by Jennifer Hamilton
My simple theory is that when we begin to see the exploitation of the worlds’ children as the exploitation of our own, we will be shaken to the core and compelled to act. May our trembling knees actually strengthen our resolve to do so.
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