Freedom! Humanity’s innate desire for freedom, etched into our hearts and souls. That’s what I remember about freedom, growing up in Nairobi, Kenya and listening to news and rumours of unrest in the 1960’s. News about the push for Independence in different African countries.
“Don’t forget,” said our teacher one day, as we clattered out of our classroom, “don’t forget to bring in tins and packets of food, for people escaping the violence in Congo.”
“Oh!,” I thought, in my 12 year old mind, “wonder what’s happening?”
In the days that followed we heard much about the Europeans who had to flee from the violence of the Congo.
Freedom! The Congolese Insurgence wrestled for their freedom from the brutal and oppressive rule of the Belgians over them at that time. Behind the scene, of course, there were many political and economic powers at play. Yet, the drive for equality and freedom was the overriding power in that moment of the history of Belgian Congo now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Many lives were lost on both sides during those desperate days. Thousands of Europeans fled from their very lucrative power-hold to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, and became dependant on charity for that moment of time. One of those neighbouring countries was Kenya, where we lived.
The fight for freedom and equality is a hard task master and often comes at a price!
Since then, apart from decolonisation of many nations, several countries around the world have been ravaged by civil wars and natural disasters that resulted in various groups of people being displaced and forced to seek refuge elsewhere.
The Human Rights Charter, currently signed in by over 129 member states, lists 30 major areas which stand as the global benchmark in the push for freedom and equality for all groups of people everywhere, including the right to seek a safe place to live.
In Australia, the theme of Refugee Week 2020 is ‘celebrating the year of welcome’ and in July an on-line rally for freedom highlighted the plight of asylum seekers. At present over 1400 men, women and children are held in detention centres pending a decision by the Australian government. A major concern for asylum seekers, in detention centres everywhere, is their mental health, and especially now in the COVID times of lockdown and restrictions.
Freedom – and the drive for equality – is craved in myriads of power, economic and health struggles.
Cornelia Rau, an Australian woman, wrongfully put in a detention centre in Baxter, Australia was found to have had mental health struggles. Her story is documented revealing a single most poignant desire for freedom deep within her –
‘If I had a pet,’ she writes, ‘I’d like a possum that lives outside and just pops into the garden every now and then.’ She simply did not understand why, like her imagined possum, she could not be free.
Freedom and equality are God given gifts to every human being and absolutely worth the struggle to claim, when they are denied.