Pesach & Liberation from Oppression

Yesterday evening marked the first night of Passover or Pesach.  It's kind of a blessing when my UU church's annual observance of Pesach actually takes place at the right time.  (All Souls does a wonderful Seder dinner but it plays a little loose with the rules... which is very UU.)

Since this is a UU Seder, our Haggadah (the order of service for the Seder) emphasizes the social justice aspects of the Exodus story.  We talk not only of God delivering the Jews from the oppression of the Egyptians but also our recognition that others in the world are still oppressed and our hopes for their liberation too.  We link the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt with the enslavement of African Americans in the U.S.  (Indeed, the Exodus story is a key part of black liberation theology.)  To be fair, I know a lot of Jewish Seders also broaden the focus towards all people who are oppressed, and teach that their own experiences show them that they must not be complacent to injustice.

Anyway, no one mentioned it, but I was thinking it.  I was thinking about the people of Tibet.  Or course, many, many other oppressions are going on right now, but I was thinking of Tibet because in this version of the story, it's my people - the Han Chinese - who are the Egyptians.  The Han are the oppressors and as the story tells us, God is on the side of the oppressed.

I could take the easy way out and say that the Chinese people have no control over what their communist government does.  But that doesn't seem entirely truthful, knowing that so many Chinese share the government's callously paternalistic view.  Just as I could say that Americans have no control over our president deciding to invade another country, or torture prisoners. And there would be truth to that.  But  we re-elected him, and a sizable percentage of us condone Guantanamo. 

God is on the side of the oppressed and my people - both of my people - are on the wrong side of God.  What does it mean then to be sitting through a ritual that celebrates the end of oppression? 

Spirit, soften my heart, so that I may listen to the grievances of others, however angry, without getting defensive and wanting to argue back. Soften the hearts of my Chinese and American sisters and brothers so that they will see "the Other" as people deserving respect and fair treatment.  Soften the hearts of the Sudanese government, and those in power everywhere.  Next year, may we all be on God's side.

 

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