Purim reminds us that the evils of persecution and genocide are ever-present threats to humanity. Haman accuses the Jews of being a people scattered and dispersed who scorn the king’s law and obey their own laws (Esther 3:8-11). As a people who celebrate unique customs and have historically been shunned from the rest of society, the Jews have known a unique vulnerability to persecution.
However, as the end of the book of Esther, in which the Jews kill 75,000 Persians in defending themselves, shows us, we not have a responsibility in preventing others from oppressing us, but we must also prevent anyone from experiencing oppression. As Abraham Joshua Heschel says: “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
Today, thousands of people around the world are persecuted because of differences in race, religion, gender, or political affiliation. The genocide in Darfur is only the most recent such crisis to find the global spotlight:
- It is estimated that there are 27 million people in the world today who are enslaved.
- UNICEF estimates that more than 300,000 children under 18 are currently being exploited in over thirty armed conflicts worldwide.
- The UN estimates that between 200,000-300,000 people have died in Darfur since the start of the current conflict in 2004.
- Protestors of repressive governments across the Middle East and North Africa during the "Arab Spring" have been killed, beaten, and arrested by police in the streets for voicing their opinions of reforms.
Our Jewish values of upholding the dignity of humanity compel us to feel personally responsible for those experiencing oppression worldwide. In honor of Purim, let us take the opportunity to learn about persecution and human rights violations and work towards peaceful solutions to these conflicts.