Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.”
Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.
Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Oppression, cruelty, and slavery marked Israel’s time in Egypt. Sadly, oppression, cruelty, and slavery have marred the entirety of humanity’s time on Earth.
In his 1982 commencement address at Santa Clara University, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuria, SJ, told the story of Salvadoran priest, Fr. José Simeon Cañas, who addressed the [Salvadoran] Constitutional Assembly in 1824, with these words: “I come crawling; and if I were dying, dying I would come to make a request for humanity. I beg before anything else that our slaves he declared free citizens. For this is the order of justice: that the deprived be restored to the possession of their goods, and there is no good more valuable than liberty… This nation has declared itself free; so, then, must all its people be free.”’
Fr. Cañas’ impassioned address helped to free Central American slaves 14 years before Georgetown University sold 272 slaves to secure its economic prosperity and 39 years before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
Our faith calls us to prophetic, out-front action on behalf of oppressed peoples. One does not need to sleuth for opportunities: caged refugees on the US southern border, environmental racism in our cities, and inequalities of our public schools beg for our attention. Let us use our power and position for their benefit and for God’s greater glory.
—Bill Kriege serves as the director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO.
Holy prophet José Simeon Cañas, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Rutilio Grande, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Oscar Romero, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Maura Clarke, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Jean Donovan, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ita Ford, MM, pray for us
Holy Martyr Dorothy Kazel, OSU, pray for us
Holy Martyr Ignacio Martín-Baró, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Ignacio Ellacuría, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Amando López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Joaquín López y López, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Segundo Montes, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Juan Ramón Moreno, SJ, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Elba Ramos, pray for us.
Holy Martyr Celina Ramos, pray for us.
—Salvadoran Prayer Litany adapted by Bill KriegePlease share the Good Word with your friends!