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Are you free?

Freedom is so much more than we realize. I won’t sugar coat it, nor will I praise aspects of our governments which I don’t remotely understand. I won’t be your ever-smiling school girl. I will speak the harsh truth.

Nelson Mandela once said, “To be free not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” I agree with this statement, and to speak truthfully, we have not respected freedom as it should. Freedom means not only living free of tyranny and the shackles of slavery but living while respecting the rights of others as well. Freedom means to have the heart to help those who are not free; freedom means safety for the citizens of our country.

Freedom has different meanings, whether it is being able to speak our minds and have our rights be recognized by the government or being able to choose for ourselves and become whoever we want to be. It can also mean never disrespecting other people’s freedom and living with dignity; being yourself, taking risks or spending time with loved ones.

We all have ideas about what freedom means to us, but how often to we feel free? It’s a good time to have a look at how people’s freedoms are holding up throughout the world.

The heatmap sorts the world’s countries according to how much “personal freedom” their citizens enjoy. The data comes from The Legatum Prosperity Index, which ranks countries according to a range of criteria. The personal freedom ranking is based on access to legal rights; freedom of speech and religion; and social tolerance, notably towards immigrants and ethnic minorities.

Luxembourg, a founding member of the European Union and seat of the European Court of Justice, tops the liberty charts. It is one of Europe’s smallest sovereign states and has a population of a little over half a million.

In second place is Canada, whose young Liberal leader is Justin Trudeau. Other European entries in the top 10 include Iceland, The Netherlands, Finland, Australia, and Belgium. Uruguay, which has a reputation for liberal legislation, including legalized cannabis – is the only South American country to make the top 20.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Afghanistan scores lowest for personal liberty. Its neighbor Iran comes in the bottom five. Mauritania in northern Africa, as well as Egypt and Sudan, also fare very badly for personal liberty. Russia, run by domestically popular but internationally controversial Putin, is also in the bottom 10 for rights and tolerance, coming behind Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo, among others.

Today, there are between 21 and 45 million people trapped in modern slavery. It’s a crime that effects every country in the world, but spreading awareness can help bring about change. But we also want to start a conversation about the everyday freedom we sometimes take for granted. We want to know what freedom means to you and what are you doing to contribute to it in your country?

Author: Mariana Lainfiesta

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