Setting the Captives Free
Scripture reminds us that some people lie awake at night imagining new forms of evil.More often than not, such evil involves wasting the lives of women and children. In India alone, millions of girls, some as young as eight years old, are "hired," "rented," or simply "sold" or "married" to old men.Victims of drudgery or sexual exploitation, many do not live long, and those who survive—the "broken" or "used up"—are thrown into the street to beg. Widow burning was outlawed in 1828, but today thousands of lives are lost each year to "bride burning," when a mother-in-law "accidentally" spills burning oil on a new bride in the kitchen—usually for the sake of the dowry. About two million children around the world still succumb to "sex tourism" every year.
Many champions of women's rights have given their lives to alter such situations. Christian and non-Christian activists look back for inspiration to the 19th-century Indian social reformer Pandita Ramabai.
No word better epitomizes the lifelong quest and career of Ramabai than mukti—the term for liberty, freedom, release, or salvation. It expresses her own personal journey to Christianity. It is the name she gave to her school for rescued girls. Emblazoned on the Mukti Mission's newsletter, the "Mukti Prayer Bell," was an engraving of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, along with the ringing words, "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof—Lev. XXV, v. x."This was her hope for millions of oppressed people, especially women and children for whom she fought throughout her life.
Ramabai's concern for the plight of women came from her father. A renowned Sanskrit scholar who had been ostracized for daring to teach his child-bride to read Sanskrit, he had ...