By Carol Gee
(Longer version cross-posted at South by Southwest.)
The "I have a dream" speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963, closes with these unforgettable words:
When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Today's post is about people whose freedom has again been stolen some 44 years later. The day after Independence Day in the U.S., too many do not enjoy the independence we celebrated. Victims of lawless kidnapping or quasi slavery, their stories make the headlines over and over.
Hooray, hooray! Johnston's free. The Palestinian group Hamas brokered the deal. They stand to gain much in the eyes of the international world, if they can be seen to be something other than merely a terrorist group. A great deal of the national and international television coverage yesterday was about the freeing of a kidnapped BBC reporter, Alan Johnston. The most interesting reading in the news came, in my opinion from Aljazeera.net. Dated (7/4/07), the headline read, "Bbc Gaza reporter Johnston freed." Quoting from the colorfully written story"
Alan Johnston, the BBC journalist held hostage in the Gaza Strip since March has been released, saying it was "an amazing thing to be free".
..."It is just the most fantastic thing to be free," Johnston told BBC from Gaza, adding that it was "at times quite terrifying" not knowing when it was going to end.
..."I dreamt many times of being free and always woke up back in that room... It's an amazing thing to be free," Johnston said at the home of Ismail Haniya, the ousted Palestinian prime minister and local Hamas leader who had brokered his release.
Johnston called his 16 weeks in captivity the worst of his life and likened his experience to being "buried alive."
In contrast the Johnston freedom story style was much more subdued in the UK press, true to form. There was little mention of the fact that Johnston was taken straight to the home of Hamas leader Ismael Haniya in the middle of the night. Opinions about whether this was the middle east cultural norm of hospitality for strangers, or merely for publicity effect, depends on one's political persuasion. "Just the facts" was the style of Andrew England in Jerusalem, writing for London's Financial Times (on 7/4/07). The headline read, "Kidnapped BBC reporter freed."
Freedom's long elusive in Columbia kidnapping - But, at least there is renewed hope that the long-held South American hostages may be alive. Again I turned to Aljazeera.net, who actually turned out to be part of the story as the recipient of the videotape itself. On (7/4/07) their headline read, "Hostage says Betancourt still alive." Quoting from the piece,
A soldier held hostage by Colombian rebels has confirmed that Ingrid Betancourt, a former presidential candidate, kidnapped over five years ago, is sill alive. William Dominguez said he had seen Betancourt during a video message recorded in October and delivered to Al Jazeera's correspondent in the country on Tuesday. Dominguez was among seven soldiers and police officers shown on the new video, most of whom have been held hostage for about nine years, Holman Morris, Al Jazeera's correspondent, said.
The tape comes five days after Farc claimed that 11 politicians it had held hostage for five years died in the crossfire during a military raid on a rebel camp last month. The government denies the military attacked the camp and accuses the guerrillas of executing the 11 provincial lawmakers. The politicians were among 56 hostages, including Betancourt and three Americans, who the rebels want to swap for Farc members held in Colombian prisons.
The Columbian kidnap videotape story from the BBC News (7/4/07) carried the headline, "Columbia Hostages in video appeal." The act of kidnapping also captures the perpetrators, in a way. What negotiating power do they retain after their captives are freed? It is always a devil's bargain. To quote,
Colombian rebels have released a video showing seven hostages, some held for nearly a decade, pleading for the government to talk to their captors. It was not immediately clear when the video of the captured police officers and soldiers was filmed. It surfaced a week after rebels said 11 kidnapped politicians were killed as armed forces attacked a guerrilla camp. President Alvaro Uribe, who accused the rebels of murdering the men, is to lead anti-kidnap protests on Thursday.
...The father of soldier Pablo Emilio Mocayo, seized nine years ago, said the video was extremely distressing. "This tears my soul apart, [to see him] in these conditions, so thin, poor boy and I unable to anything," he said. Mr Moncayo has been walking across Colombia in chains in an effort to pressure the guerrillas and the authorities to reach an agreement to free the hostages.
Across the Atlantic from Columbia in Africa, there is a brand new kidnapping headline: "Oil workers kidnapped in Nigeria." It is from the BBC News of (7/4/07). The story is the latest regarding a large number of kidnappings in the region, which seem to be, in a bizarre way, part of the Nigerian economy. To quote:
Unknown gunmen have attacked and snatched five foreign workers from an oil rig in Nigeria's volatile Niger Delta, security sources say. The attack comes a day after the main militant group in the area said it had called off a month-long truce. But the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) says it has nothing to do with this new attack.
More than 100 foreigners have been taken hostage so far this year alone in the region. The hostages are usually released unharmed after ransom payments that the Nigerian government and oil companies involved always deny.
Part of the Chinese economy? During time when Southerners kept slaves in the United States some considered the slaves a necessary part of their economy. That must again be the case with these Chinese law-breakers. The headline, "Chinese slave labour trial begins" is from the BBC News (of 7/4/07). Quoting from the story:
A trial has begun of 12 people who are accused of involvement in a slave labour scandal in illegal mines and brick factories in northern China.
...The charges include illegal detention, forced labour and murder, Xinhua said. Almost 570 people trafficked as slaves, 50 of them children, have been freed in Shanxi and Henan in the last few weeks. The scandal came to light after some 400 distraught parents of children who had been sold into slavery set up an online campaign to raise awareness of the issue... The factories were allegedly run like prisons with guard dogs and beatings to prevent escapes.
Dr. King's prophetic words still call out to us. People of peace around the world must work and hope to take Independence Day forward to the day...
...when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing...
Labels: Africa, Around the World, China, crime, economics, freedom, human rights, Latin America, Middle East, racism, United Kingdom