There is a movement amongst the religious leaders of the world to end all human slavery by the end of the year 2020. Coming together in an unprecedented collaboration, representatives from all of the world’s major religions have signed a declaration expressing their mutual commitment to end human trafficking. This is a major advance in the life of the world’s spiritual community, not only because of its united effort at these highest levels of religious organization, but also for the opportunity it provides for all of us, both religious and spiritual, to come together to uplift the hearts and minds of people everywhere.
There are two ways in which we can respond to this opportunity. One is to say no to slavery in all its forms. It is to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that slavery and human trafficking are wrong. It is to take the existential stance that when confronted with this issue as a force in the collective mind, you would deny its momentum, its influence, and its financial and popular support. It would be to look it in the eye and say, “You have no place in me or in this world; I reject you utterly; I command you to stop.” The other way is to picture in your mind’s eye what it feels like to emerge from the rubble into the light of day, just as those who survived the collapse of the World Trade Center in 2001 or the people who have been pulled to safety in the aftermath of an earthquake. What indescribable joy they must have felt! Despairing for their lives, hoping against hope, to then be liberated from their captivity and returned to safety, to their loved ones, back to a normal life. To project this feeling into the minds of those caught in the grip of human slavery, held against their will, forced to do things no human being should ever be forced to do—this could be the ray of hope and strengthening of will that could empower them to break out of their captivity.
But no living prayer is complete until it embraces both sides of the equation. Imagine those who make their living buying and selling other human beings. What about them? As long as we see them as the enemy, we energize them to keep doing what they are doing. Push against the human will, no matter what its orientation, and it will push back. But, to recognize that the human spirit is the same in all of us, that God is the same in each person, no matter how “evil” that person might seem, this recognition is the beginning of healing. Those who perpetrate crimes against humanity do so against their own spiritual well being. One must be cut off from their divinity before they can do such things. At some level, they can feel their separation from their innate spiritual consciousness, and this separation must be a source of great suffering for them, suffering that from behind an opaque wall of ignorance gets distorted into a heartless cruelty and disregard for the suffering of others. What would they feel like if they were released from their captivity, released from the anger that causes them to do extraordinary damage to their own soul?
Harming and being harmed are the gyres that pull us down into the blackness of materiality. Victim and victimizer are the roles we play in this tragedy of Earth life. Each role empowers and perpetuates the other. We trade places , sometimes killing and sometimes being killed, exacting acts of revenge in exchange for preceding acts of revenge, blood feuds that extend so far back in time that no one can remember who actually started the cycle. And it’s believing that others deserve whatever we want to do to them that fuels the slave trade that has grown to epidemic proportions in our world.
What if we were all freed from these delusions?
An idea pictured in mind, combined with a resolved will and fervent feeling, is the most powerful force in the universe. It is more powerful than any nuclear weapon. But pitting that power against another human being diminishes its power exponentially. It is only by including everyone in our prayers that mountains will move. Each of us are at different levels of consciousness and therefore have different levels of responsibility. And just as parents set boundaries for their children, sometimes quite firmly, much to the dismay of the child, so too can we look into the blackness of human depravity and command it to cease its self-destructive behavior.
This is our responsibility to each other. For as surely as night follows day, we too will need, at some point in our soul’s trajectory, a corrective word and guiding hand from those above us. Let us not fail in this. Let us not turn our backs and do nothing when what is required of us is everything.