“How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.”
Martin Luther King – Letter from a Birmingham Jail
In 2007 I met a young beautiful woman by the name of Rola M. Saleh. She had come to Germany fleeing the persecution of her home nation. In Iran she is classified as Homosexual and according to Iranian law Homosexuality is a capital offense. International Human Rights groups report public floggings and executions of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. Young and educated, Rola saw herself as a survivor, and she was hungry. She was hungry to do more, to make something extraordinary out of her life. But upon arriving in Germany Rola was segregated from German society and place inside a refugee camp outside Chemnitz, Deutschland. From that moment she had experienced denial. She had been denied a permanent visa, denied the status of citizenship, denied the opportunity of work, education, security and mobility. “I live,” she whispered then exclaimed, “in a prison without bars.”
We are all here because we find situations in this world un-moral. There are situations in this world that we just find wrong. I find it wrong that people leave their homes because of pain, because of suffering, because of lack of opportunity and they are given no safe haven, they are given no place to land, no place to rest. Like birds without a nest they are left constantly searching. Once they reach the shores of western Europe or the United States of America, lands that are currently in a state of peace, they are told that these great nations owe them next to nothing. According to International Law, Human Rights describe the relationship a nation owes to its own citizens. But what then happens to the nation-less? What happens to those whose nations were unable or unwilling to protect them? Or those who simply did not want to stay in these lands? When they are allowed to stay in the new nation, they are allowed to stay out of a sense of goodwill but not necessarily out of a sense of obligation, what every nation owes to their fellow man. Rather than being treated with respect, they are socially segregated, placed far away, out of sight and out of mind. In many cases they are not allowed to fully enter into the new society because it will make it easier on the day that whatever has forced them to leave their native land ends for them to be taken and sent back. All of this is legal. All of this is done according to national and international laws. However as Martin Luther King himself states we must ask ourselves which laws are just and which are not? Who makes these laws and for the betterment of whom?
This situation overlooks the strength, beauty, and worth of every human regardless of where they come from.
Rola’s words have never left me. They entered in beneath my skin and remained. I felt a need to do something, because there should be no one left alone in a prison without bars, there should be no one who is segregated. Voices In Exile was born from this, from a desire to break down invisible prisons, to break down the invisible walls that separate us and leave us feeling secluded and alone.
– Asoka Esuruoso