“If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace…” Esther 7:4
Esther, a Jew, was the wife of King Ahasuerus of Prussia. When Esther became aware that her husband’s chief advisor, Haman, had received permission from the king to have all the Jews in the kingdom killed, she brazenly acted to thwart the genocidal plan and turn it against Haman.
Despite knowing that she could be put to death if she appears before the king without being summoned, Queen Esther nevertheless goes to him. Miraculously, he welcomes her and even offers to give her anything she wants, “up to half of the kingdom.” Instead of material goods, Queen Esther courageously appealed for her people’s life. King Ahasuerus rescinds his order and gives the Jews permission to defend themselves and attack their evil and wicked enemies. The gallows Haman erected for the Jews became the platform of his own death.
This story of Queen Esther’s bold and heroic act to save the people of Israel from a holocaust is recognized and celebrated in the Judeo-Christian faith and in art and literature, ensuring that Queen Esther’s bravery in the fourth century is remembered throughout time. Despite this, however, the depth of this victory is often glossed over. But ask yourself, how could a woman who was essentially nothing more than a sex slave for a despotic leader rise to become the savior of a nation? Many accounts of the story emphasize Queen Esther’s great beauty and the brilliant way she used it to save her people. But looking at it this way neglects to bring judgement upon the powerful who ignore God and abuse a subject people to further their own sinful agenda.
Today, as our nation continues to open new battlefronts in its ongoing civil war for social justice and equality, selective memory has become the weapon of choice. The latest iteration is the treatment meted out recently to Haitian migrants on our border in Del Rio, Texas. Their cry is the same as Queen Esther’s: “If you treat me as a migrant yet human then we can be at peace.”
Sadly, many Americans are not aware of the role that Haiti, more than any other people, played in supporting the fledging USA. Among the Revolutionary War exhibits in Savannah, Georgia’s History Museum is a commemoration of the 1779 Battle of Savannah that recalls the ‘Chasseurs Volontaires’ – infantry volunteers from Haiti. The placard salutes the bravest feat “ever performed by foreign troops in the American cause.”
Haitian soldiers who fought in the American Revolutionary War used their experiences as inspiration to revolt against slavery and colonization by the French. In an act of revenge and supported by the U.S.A within a strong influence by the “Southern planter class”. As part of the agreement to end the bloody conflict, Haiti was forced to pay millions of dollars in reparations to France to compensate them for their loss of the most valuable piece of real estate in all of their colonies. This caused Haiti to plummet from being the wealthiest province to the poorest in the third world. Thus was the introduction of the concept of reparation in the New world.
What was Haiti’s reward for helping the United States win its war of independence? President Andrew Johnson and the southern planters were so deeply afraid of a free black nation on its doorsteps that Haiti was left to flounder. Hundreds of years later, not much has changed. The descendants of Southern planters are still driven by loathing and fear and reflect ingratitude to those who valiantly helped make them wealthy and powerful. This attitude recently was made all too clear by the photos and videos that showed Haitian migrants seeking asylum in the United States being treated like animals in Del Rio, Texas by U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback, in a scene reeking of the era of enslavement, who charged into them wielding whips. There are no similar photos involving migrant asylum seekers from Afghanistan.
It is time for the people of Haiti to be fully liberated so that, like Queen Esther and her people, they can live and not die at the hands of the enemy.
The question to us today as we face a new age fraught with climate change perpetuated by greed, threats to democracy, and other looming crises is whether we are willing to silently participate in the abuse of victims? The church celebrates Esther who gave a voice to the voiceless and brought attention to the underclass. How can we celebrate Haiti’s sacrifices and yet be silent?