WASHINGTON- Natan Sharansky,a former Soviet dissident,says humanity needs to embrace its identity to protect its freedom.
“Identity is the desire of people to belong. Belong to some history,some group,to some faith. Real freedom is to live in accordance with your identity,” he said Monday at the Heritage Foundation while promoting his new book.
Sharansky,a Zionist,gained fame when he worked with Soviet Jews who wanted to emigrate to Israel. In 1978,he was imprisoned on charges of treason and spying for the U.S. After eight years in a Siberian penal labor camp,he was released in a U.S.- Soviet prisoner exchange.
Since then,he has been listed on Time magazine's 100 most influential people of 2005 and has become a humanitarian icon for democracy and freedom.
The author and Israeli politician's new book,”Defending Identity: Its Indispensable Role in Protecting Democracy,” takes on the subject of identity.
Sharansky outlined key points in his book through anecdotes of his experiences as a citizen of the Soviet Union,a prominent political leader of the Jewish community and as a political prisoner.
“I was in solitude. I was deprived of clothes. I was deprived of freedom. There are things you can't say publicly. There are books you can't read,and if you disagree,it is over for you,” he said of his formative years in the Soviet Union.
Sharansky said his past may help others.
“I don't consider myself a writer. But simply using my experiences and the different life I had,I feel sharing this experience can help us in the struggle,” he said.
Sharansky said people should stop using religion to separate themselves from others and to see others as part of humanity.
“Imagine a world without God and without hell,without borders and without nations,” Sharansky said. With passion and urgency he said,”Real freedom is when people stop being divided by religion.”