Tag Archives: human rights

Life in a Jar

Heroes do extraordinary things. What I did was not an extraordinary thing. It was normal.

-Irena Sendler

For an aged woman of 91 at the time of her death, Irena Sendler had seen firsthand more despair, hatred and injustice than most of us can see in a lifetime. A polish woman growing up in Warsaw and the surrounding areas Irena was submerged in the anti-semitic culture of Europe during the Holocaust. Her life was normal from the outside looking in, and she seemed to be the average young polish woman who just wanted to pursue a nursing career so she could follow in her father’s footsteps by being part of the medical field… she was anything but that.

Her father not only passed along his love for medicine but also a deeply rooted belief that all person’s have dignity and that if you see a person drowning, “must try to rescue them, even if you cannot swim.” Irena took that wisdom to heart and as the Holocaust raged more and more inhuman each day she decided she would no longer stand against justice by doing nothing.

Irena’s fight for the Jewish people started in 1939 when she and her tiny army of fighters created fake documents for many Jews living in Poland. Her fight did not end there though, by the end of 1942 Irena had successfully smuggled 2,500 children out of the Warsaw ghetto either by traveling through the sewer systems or hiding the very young ones in her medical bag.

The life of this polish woman is not just a story about doing what is right or even about finding justice for others, it is a story that drips with a desire to see all of humanity live with dignity. She did not see the Jewish people as a lesser race, she did not find them distasteful or deserving of death- she saw people, in need of what she could offer.

Irena speaks about her experiences during World War II as if she were not a hero, many quotes you find from her talk about how she is just the opposite. A person who did not do something extraordinary, but one who did something that should be very ordinary.

How are we, as ordinary people, doing ordinary things… make an extraordinary difference? Irena saved the lives of thousand of children, careful to write down their names, their parents names and where they were going and then protected that information, she buried her jars of thin tissue paper under apple trees. This allows to look back on to see the impact… the lives of thousands and thousands of people are now changed forever… because someone did something ordinary.

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Life in a Jar

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Filed under Human Interest, Women's History Month

Freedom from Fear

It would be difficult to dispel ignorance unless there is freedom to pursue the truth unfettered by fear.

-Aung San Suu Kyi


It could be partly due to the fact that I’ve been to Burma, or that I have a deep connection to the fight against oppression that I consider Aung San Suu Kyi to be one of the most important and influential women to be recognized in the last century. But, I would say beyond my own personal bias there is a deep reverence and respect for this woman who has battled hardship and prejudice for most of her life simply because she has decided to fight for something she believes in.

Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of Aung San who founded the modern Burmese army and is responsible for liberating Burma from the British Empire when Suu Kyi was just 2 years old.  Following in her fathers footsteps she pursued politics after obtaining very reputable degrees and returned to Burma to fight for independence.

Burma is buddhist country that is still enveloped in the darkness of spirituality, political oppression and military rule. Their approach to socialism has been described as  ‘an amalgam of Buddhist and Marxist illogic’ by Newsweek. Overall the country has lived in severe poverty, unrest and a superstitious mentality that rules even their government.

Suu Kyi recognized the oppression that the government placed on its people and she decided that she did not have to remain silent about her desire for a democratic country, but instead speak out for it. One of her most recognized quotes is:

“You should never let your fears prevent you from doing what you know is right.”

While many people will find quaint ways of saying what they believe, rarely will you find a person that puts their life behind their words. Suu Kyi has done just that, spending 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest for speaking out against the governmental powers and asking for democracy and freedom for her people. She is looked to as a national hero by the Burmese people, a model of inspiration for those who still suffer oppression, a picture of dignity who does not use her gender as an excuse for women who don’t have a voice, and an activist that has not stopped in the face of threats, hardships and dangers for those who desire to see change.

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, a daughter, a wife, a mother, a politician, an activist, a woman… she has changed the world through her commitment to action against oppression.

“I don’t believe in people just hoping. We work for what we want. I always say that one has no right to hope without endeavor”

 


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Filed under Causes, Human Interest, Women's History Month

The Warsaw Uprising

On any given day you can look back into the scope of human history and find the events that marked that particular date and what made them significant enough to impact the fabric of our time.

January 18th, 1943- a small group of Jewish men

decided to react against hatred.


The Warsaw ghetto was the largest in all of Poland. It housed well over 400,000 Jews in conditions that were deplorable. Starvation, typhoid fever and random killing sprees by the Nazi’s were just a few of the hazards to residing in Warsaw’s ghetto. Throughout the year of 1942 thousands upon thousands were deported to Treblinka, a large extermination camp. Within the year… over 300,000 were exported by the masses to their deaths.

But there was a remnant… shipping of Jews from Warsaw had ceased for a time. From the fall of 1942 to the winter of 1943 there was a significant decrease in the deportation of Jews to Treblinka. But the ones that remained lived on a shallow breath, knowing that at any time it could resume.

January 18th, the Nazi troops began organizing… more Jews were to be sent to the death camp. But… within the shallow breathing remnant, there came a realization that led to action. No longer would they be treated as animals, no longer would they be treated as unpersons, there was a realization that they still possessed humanity, despite how they had been dispersed, disregarded and degraded.

On a preplanned signal, a small group of men turned on those who had kept them prisoner. There, in the ghetto they had come to know as home- they started an uprising.

Although in the short scope of things, the uprising at Warsaw did not turn out in the Jews favor- it did start a liberation. There has been movie after movie made about the Warsaw ghetto and the uprising that happened there. The utter darkness that the evil of men had cast throughout Nazi-occupied Poland was not enough to destroy a people who suffered as the target of that evil. The liberation and understanding of their humanity gave rise to a renewed hope that there was light at the end of it all. That one day there wouldn’t be any more destruction and death.

And here we are… almost 70 years later, most of the survivors are gone now…only a few remain.  The Nazi’s who tortured, burned, destroyed and killed this people group have been brought under the strong arm of justice. Why not take just a moment to remember those who died simply because of who they were born as. But…I am not Jewish and logistically most of you are not either. So, why should it matter to us?

The same reasons rape, murder, abuse, hatred, racism and all other forms of violence should matter to us. When we see things like this that mar our history, it doesn’t matter if we are or would have been included in that particular population. It matters because it isn’t a white or black issue, it’s not a male or female issue, it’s not an intelligence and handicap issue…

 

It’s a human issue.

 

“We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.

We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers

from Prague, Paris and Amsterdam,

and because we are only made of fabric and leather

and not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire.”

 

The Holocaust

The Warsaw Ghetto

Movies about the Warsaw Ghetto and Treblinka:

The Pianist

Defiance

Uprising

Jakob the Liar


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Filed under Human Interest

1.11.11

There are 4 times this year that the date will contain all 1’s. This is monumental people… it only happens one year every century.

However, the date 1.11 comes every year; and with it comes a day of awareness that I think everyone should broadcast in some fashion.

National Human Trafficking Awareness day comes about every year and each year I’d like to think a few more people have become intently aware of just how massive this issue is. Let’s chat… according to International Justice Mission;

Trafficking in humans generates profits in excess of 12 billion dollars a year for those who, by force and deception, sell human lives into slavery and sexual bondage. Nearly 2 million children are exploited in the commercial sex industry.

27 million men, women and children are held as slaves. (Kevin Bales,Disposable People)

The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in excess of $32 billion (U.N.)

The heartbreaking realization is that there is only a small percentage of our world’s populous fighting against this raging beast.

It’s tragedy.

So what are you doing now to combat the evils of this world? Are you concerned about the welfare of your fellow-man, woman and child? What will it take to get your attention? How many children have to suffer the pain and disgrace of sexual exploitation before we step in?

Here is just a small list of ways you can do something in your realm of influence. Pick just one for now and do your part.

11 Practical Ways

I’m taking on 1, 4, 7 and 8.

This is how change starts.

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