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Amanda Berry and freedom

May 8, 2013

We have watched in amazement over the past days as the story of the escape of Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus, and Michele Knight. Kept captive and hidden for ten years their lives will have been unimaginably terrible.

Of course their physical freedom is just the beginning. They are overjoyed at being free at last – but the mental and emotional scars will last much longer, maybe a lifetime. In all likelihood will have been told they are worthless, they will certainly have felt worthless, powerless, humiliated and hopeless.

Most of all, my thoughts are for the little girl. Born as a result of the rape of her teenage mother. There will of course be some kind of bond between Amanda and this child, but what physiological scars will she have to grow up with? For here there is no past loving family that she can be reunited with!

We react and respond to this story because we can understand the tragedy and the joy of escape after all the years of hopelessness. We can relate to the ordinariness of the suburb where they were imprisoned. We are shocked at the callous way in which their captors carried on with everyday life; “he ate ribs with us” states his neighbour.

But beyond the personal tragedies, beyond the happy reunions, beyond the shock and horror that it could happen here – in the civilised west, is the stark reality that for millions of people around the world such captivity is an everyday reality. These people do not make the headlines but their lives and sorrows are just as real as the girls who are now free.

India is a country that is progressing up the ladder of world economies, yet there an estimated two million people in India who work as bonded labourers. They are imprisoned in their places of work, denied the opportunity to visit or speak to their families. Day after day they work in harsh conditions (for example making bricks), and they will never be freed!

How did they get there? They may have accepted a loan from the loan shark – and when the inevitable day arrived when they could not pay the loan they were offered a way to work in exchange for repaying the debt. What they are not told is that the debt will continue to get bigger in interest charges and charges for food and shelter while they are working. As in the case of Amanda Berry children are born in the years that these labourers are in captivity.

These two million remain largely  hidden from the eyes of the worlds media for two reasons. first they are not` here` in the west – and our perception (reinforced by the priorities of the media) is that they don’t matter. The second is that in India, where they are local stories they are largely ignored – because they are dalits “untouchables”. They have been born in the wrong caste – and therefore are expendable.

There are a few organisations working to change this,,, While Amanda is still in our thoughts please get involved for the millions of other modern day slaves.

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