Let My People Go! Modern Day Oppression and Exile by Michele Stopera Freyhauf


FreyhaufLet my people go!

Where is the humanity? Why are my sisters and brothers continuously subjected to persecution? Who will help and stop this madness?

I am a member of the human race. Collectively I identify with those who need help and are oppressed. I do not identify with the oppressors, for they are like Pharaoh whose heart was hardened. In identifying with this group, I will provide a label of humanity; for the oppressors do not show care or love but evil and sin towards my people – they cannot be part of this group. As my people flee the boarders from the oppressors, the world has opened their gates to let them in. The world has not turned their back on them. However the oppressors continue to mar their homeland, destroy their culture, and attempt to erase their history, their identity, their footprint on this earth. They are not oppressors but are in fact committing cultural genocide. They are committing genocide against humanity, against anyone who does not follow their ideology, their way of life.

Why should we care? Should we care? For this I say yes. My people need protection and help, but like the Israelites in the story of the Exodus, they yearn for their homeland – a place they were forcibly exiled from. They yearn for food and clean water. They yearn for safety and protection.  While you may think that my people were not forcibly exiled – they were. They fled for their own lives – for their own people, and the community’s hearts became hardened to their pleas for help.

The Syrian crisis is one that we have allowed to repeat over and over again. According to World Vision, nearly 12 million Syrians have been forced from their homes – half of which are children.  At least 7.6 million have been displaced within Syria and more than 4 million have fled the country.  Children affected by this crisis are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited.  Save the Children produced a video that shows what happens to a girl after three years of conflict:

Another picture that has made the rounds on the internet, is a 3 year old with her hands above her head, in a pose of surrender when she mistook a camera for a gun (photo originally found on catholic.org)

An oppressor destroying the footprint of a people, torturing a people, and mass executing a people – and the world watches. Sound familiar?  A group of refugees going to foreign land that may not accept them or do so provisionally until other arrangements are made for a more permanent home.  They are trying to reach Europe and in doing so, many give over their life savings for the chance and often, people will die whilst on the journey.  This became a focal point when 3-year old Aylan drowned with his mother and brother – however his body was photographed on the beach (caution, the photograph of the child can be found at this link). Outrage can be heard and the crisis has another face.

At some point my people will want to return home to their land of milk and honey. At some point their collective identity and cultural footprint will need restored. Unfortunately restoration is occurring in terms of photographs and 3D images because of the destruction. With the erasure of their history, their existence is always erased.  Each day that goes by, precious resources are being taken, and refugees are leaving in droves.  In the first five months alone, more than 700,000 people were newly displaced (WorldVision.org).  Photographers are documenting their journey on Instagram.

Will human race rally behind my exiled brothers and sisters and then forget about them as they did with the school girls in Nigeria? Will the human race rally for the cause through social media and not through action of human compassion and charity? Will the human race remember the time that atrocities were committed against a group of people and the outrage that something wasn’t done sooner to stop these things. History remembers – people forget.

A plea to the greater good, to the human race, help my people! A plea to the oppressors, let my people go!

For stories from refugees, see The Pulitzer Center.

Michele Stopera Freyhauf is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a Member of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham University as well as an Instructor at John Carroll University’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies and Ursuline College’s Department of Religious Studies. She teaches in the area of Religion, Culture, Terrorism/Violence, and Biblical Archaeology.  Michele has an M. A. in Theology and Religious Studies from John Carroll University, and did post-graduate work at the University of Akron in the area of History of Religion, Women, and Sexuality. She is also a Member-at-Large on the Student Advisory Board for the Society of Biblical Literature and the student representative on the Board for Eastern Great Lakes Biblical Society (EGLBS). Michele is the 2015 recipient of the P. E. MacAllister Excavation Fellowship where she participated in the Bethsaida Archaeology Project.  Michele is a feminist scholar, activist, and author of several articles including “Hagia Sophia: Political and Religious Symbolism in Stones and Spolia” and lectured during the Commission for the Status of Women at the United Nations (2013 and 2014). She also wrote “The Catholic Church and Social Media: Embracing [Fighting] a Feminist Ideological Theo-Ethical Discourse and Discursive Activism” that appears in the recently released book, Feminism and Religion in the 21st Century: Technology, Dialogue, and Expanding Borders, edited by Gina Messina-Dysert and Rosemary Radford Ruether. Michele can be followed on Twitter @msfreyhauf and @biblicalfem. Her website can be accessed here and is visible on other social media sites like LinkedIn and Google+.

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Categories: Activism, Evil, General, In the News, Violence

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

7 replies

  1. How interesting that you compare the modern Syrians, who are real, living, desperate people, with the ancient Jewish tribes whose exodus may be a myth. (See The Mythology of Eden by Arthur George and Elena George, which has been discussed before on this site.)

    Yes, indeed, we should care about these people who are so desperate to escape barrel bombs dropped on them by their own government, the assaults of radical jihadists, and the further assaults by human smugglers who let them drown in the sea (at least Moses is said to have let his people cross the sea with dry feet), and still further assaults by border guards in Europe.

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    • Barbara, the Exodus story has real relevance to any group of people that are forcibly exiled or oppressed. I use variations of the Exodus story to show examples of Exegesis (Queer, Womanist, Liberation, etc). Here is a link to a re-publishing of Mona West’s essay: http://www.geocities.ws/reb_41se/west.html (you may have to copy and paste). Looking at Exodus through that lens, is, at least in my opinion, very powerful.

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  2. Anything I think or write seems trivial after watching the video of one little girls’ change, because I know there are hundreds of thousands of other children just like her. Politicians talk endlessly in defense of their/our oppression while innocents suffer, and we sleep on while history repeats itself over and over and over. We are having an election in Canada this month. I hear many people asking: “What can I get from this or that candidate?” rather than :”What is the best path for our community/Country to live with integrity”. Many of us have not yet realized that we are all One. Thank you for the potent reminder, Michele.

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    • I thought the video was very powerful and shows a little girl that seems to live life in a very safe protected environment, and how war changes that. For me, I have 4 daughters, and it is a stark reminder how in an instant things can change. I wish we could get back to basics and think about people instead of special interests.

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  3. seriously this post touched my heart
    after watching this video my eyes filled with tears.
    as you said that the human race rally for the cause through social media and not through action of human compassion and charity. it is true that we always just post in social media..and we never take action against this..
    as a girl i can understand the value of words which you have written.
    thanks for the post Michele.

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