By Stuart Diamond
Since joining the Cape Board I have been undergoing a process of growth and part of this growth has been completing a Melton course called ‘The Star and the Crescent’.
Each week as we went through the texts I asked myself the question, “Am I really free?” If the definition of freedom is the right to act, speak, or think as one wants to, and the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved, are any of us really free?
Our constitution allows everyone freedom of religion, belief and opinion. Those who developed our constitution built in clauses to help us to live together as citizens. This is also the basic message of all our scriptures, which are designed to teach humanity to live together on our one earth with respect and dignity. As the Koran says: “We have made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another”. And the Talmud says “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man”. As Buddha taught: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful”. As Jesus preached: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
In the heat of a council debate in 2018 the penny dropped for me. I had just given a speech on the scourge of corruption and waste in government, yet my words were met not by topical critique, but by an attack on my faith. What shook me the most was the silence of so many in council who should have come to my defense. This made me wonder; am I really free? Or is there always something lurking just around the corner to remind me that I am not.
This year, Pesach coincides with Freedom Month. Instead of only enjoying our freedom by leaning at our dinner tables, let’s reflect on our responsibilities going forward. This is a time to reflect on years of tradition, when I hope to nurture a love of Judaism in my children that they will pass on to their own children one day. It is a time to educate them about human rights, freedom and responsibility. What can we do to build a South Africa where all our citizens can be free? Can freedom be true if it is at another’s expense? Can we laugh while others are crying?
This Pesach the words of Madiba mixed into the song by Stargate should resonate with us as we try to bring true constitutional freedom in our beloved land.
“Sometimes It falls upon a generation to be great. I ask all humanity now to rise up. Then we can all stand with our heads held high. You have a limited time to stay on earth. You must try and use that period for the purpose of transforming your country into what you desire it to be, a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist country and that is a great task”
It’s time to rise up.
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