The Musings 5
Read: John 8: 1-11, Galatians 3: 26-29
Rizana Nafeek. This is the name that is making headlines today in most of the national and international news. The news that is being beamed worldwide states "Rizana beheaded". Who is Rizana and why was she beheaded and why is this poor woman from Sri Lanka catching worldwide attention?. Rizana was a Sri Lankan domestic worker working in Saudi Arabia. She was arrested in 2005 for allegedly killing a baby of a Saudi National, who was under her care. When she was arrested she was only 17 years old, as she was one of the countless woman who got cheated by the recruitment agency. The recruitment agency had illegally documented her papers to show that she was 23 years old. Although Rizana said that the baby had died due to choking while being fed, the Saudi government convicted her of murder and sentenced her to death. A number of international organization has been fighting for her Rizanna for the last so many years. One of the tragedies of Rizanna's case is that she had no lawyer to defend her until she was sentenced to death and she did not have any competent interpreter during her trail. In fact her sentence violated international law, which prohibits death penalty for crimes committed before age of 18. In the last days, the President of Sri Lanka Rajapakse and even the parents of Rizanna appealed to King Abdullah to pardon Rizana but all the pleas fell on deaf ears. The Saudi Arabian government on the contrary affirms that Rizana is guilty of killing the infant after she had an argument with the child's mother. Finally Rizana was executed this Wednesday causing an international outrage, because Rizana was only 17 when the killing took place and her execution is considered as a breach of international children rights. We don't know the truth about the killing of the child nor whether Rizanna was guilty or not but the beheading of Rizana has opened up lot of issues that needs to be addressed. According to the International Labour Organisation,the beheading of Rizana brings to the fore the inhuman existence of domestic workers working in different parts of the world especially in gulf countries. In Saudi Arabia itself, there are more than 1. 5 million workers mainly woman and girls who are employed as domestic workers. In land where the laws are barbaric and archaic, with no emphasis on human rights, the poor and the desparate who leave their native land out of sheer poverty, to find some financial hope, end up as slaves condemned for ever, bearing not only physical abuse but also sexual abuse and being forced to live in isolation without any contact with the outside world. In Gulf countries it is a common sight to watch these domestic workers enjoying a day off on Friday. strolling and sitting on the park benches. That is the only recreation that they may have sometimes after a long period of time. Thus the beheading of Rizanna has highlighted not only the plight of the domestic workers but also has brought about a debate on the rights issue of these domestic workers. When we live in this world and when we hear about such horrific issue, how do we as Christians respond to these issues? What are the issues that we need to consider to make a faith response to such issues where people are denied rights and to laws that are sometimes very barbaric.
One of the basic truth that we can find in the Word of God is the affirmation of human dignity and worth. In Genesis 1:26 we find that God created every human being in His image and in His likeness. It is this biblical truth that helps us to affirm that every human being is precious. unique and has a dignity and worth. In a world where human race is often divided on the basis of the color of skin, race and ethnicity or even on economic lines, the lines of discrimination are drawn from these. Thus the understanding today in the minds of the people is that if I am rich, my financial status and my economic standing entitles me to suppress, discriminate and oppress those who are poorer than me. If the colour of skin is of a particular color, then I consider the people with other skin colour inferior and my hence my right to discriminate or abuse them. If I am of a particular caste, race or ethnicity, then people of all other race or ethnicity is lower than me and hence the right to abuse or oppress them. It is important for us to affirm that one of the basic faith affirmation in the Word of God is that we all are one, and we in terms of human dignity and worth we all stand in the same ground, neither higher nor lower. It is in this context that Paul in his letter to Galatians affirms that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male or female for you all are one in Christ Jesus" [ Gal 3:28]. This verse affirms that irrespective of our gender, our race or ethnicity or our financial status we affirm our oneness of human race, the equality of human dignity and worth through Christ. It is not that the rich, the powerful and the rulers have one kind of human dignity while the lesser known, the poor and the common people have a different element or sense of human dignity. In the same way when we look at John 8, we find a very unique way as to how Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery. In this passage we find Jesus affirming the woman who was a sinner, and this teaches us that though fallen and guilty, the sinner has a human dignity and even the guilty has certain human rights and dignity. It is these rights and dignity that cannot be violated and needs to be respected at all times. I think the incident of Rizana highlights that in the world we live, irrespective of whether a person is guilty in the eyes of the law, the individual deserves the right to dignity, the right to tell their story so that justice could be fair and true. When our society is deaf to the cry of people who are denied basic rights and dignity and are not able to affirm their worth, then whatever be the discoveries that human kind has made, we are still living in an outdated and archaic society. Rizana may be guilty, but she represents countless number of woman and children who are crying out for their basis human rights and dignity. Let us remember them in our faith journey .