The World Youth Alliance Track A training was challenging for me, not only because the course material was totally new to me (I come from a Computer Science background), but also because I could relate to many of the issues that were being raised in the chapters. Distorted realities, totalitarian regimes, and people living a lie are all a daily reality for me. But reading that throughout history there were people who were willing to risk their lives to fight injustice, to protect the freedom of others, to live in truth, and to stand in solidarity with others has also given me hope and inspiration.
Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about both the training material and the book ’12 Years a Slave’. He asked me why I bothered studying and reading grim material since it would only lead to a bleaker outlook on life. I paused to consider the question. I was once guilty of that same passive mentality. While growing up, my parents tried to persuade me to read newspapers to become up to date with what was taking place around the world, but I refused because there was nothing I could do about any of it and it would only have depressed me, so what was the point? I wasn’t encouraged to seek to make a change; I was only encouraged to be aware of the politics or global issues that humanity faced daily.
While learning more about my own faith over the past couple of years, I realized that it was our duty to take action and not remain passive. Armed with that knowledge, and living in a country going through turbulence eventually led to the blindfolds being lifted off of my eyes. I could finally see through the lies of the media, through the destructive stereotyping, through the conditioning, and through the defeatist attitude that we as a community have developed over the years; a defense mechanism because of a feeling of helplessness and fear. The material in the Track A training has given me a fresh perspective on the world. I started looking at events and analyzing them based on the dignity of the person, on their freedom and their rights regardless of who they are. I also learned that freedom is not only about the ability to do what I want, but also about choosing the good and doing what we choose to do with perfection. It is not about self-interest or a battle of wills.
My response to my friend was that slavery still existed but under different titles so that it could continue without people paying much attention to it. It is the third most profitable business for organized crime after drugs and the arms trade. Forced labor, human trafficking, child marriages and sex trafficking are examples of modern day slavery. Our ignorance of these issues only fuels the industry, it also makes it hard to identify cases, even if they are right under our own noses, and it may even put us personally at risk. What can we do to help? We must stand in solidarity with those oppressed everywhere, volunteer with or support organizations working on eradicating modern day slavery. The least we could do is raise awareness of the issue to apply pressure on governments to stop turning a blind eye to this growing epidemic that is spreading not only in ‘developing’ countries but also in Europe and the US.
Although the conversation was mainly about slavery, this applies to all wrongs being committed in the world. It is our moral duty to stand with the weak and the oppressed. Is it not about time that we stopped using the excuse that there is nothing we can do about it? Will we not someday stand before God and answer for our lack of action and silence? Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith.”
I hope that I can someday be an agent of change, to be able to do more than just pray or raise awareness among friends and family about the different challenges facing humanity.
Olfat Sakr is an Egyptian certified member with the World Youth Alliance.