and Jesus said, "whatever you do to the least of these you do to me...and whatever you do not do to the least of these you do not do to me." among the very least are all those whose voices have been hushed by social custom or legal decree. if a person or group of people are not allowed to speak it is much easier to oppress and marginalize them. such is the case for women, who in some cultures are denied educational opportunities and are not allowed to speak their truth in public. such is the case for gay people in some countries silenced by intimidation with imprisonment or execution. such is the case for the hungry weakened by starvation, or the prisoners silenced by isolation, or the sick too weary for words. yet, there may be a few among these who are able to gather up enough strength and willingness to risk their life or liberty in order to raise their voice in protest. so i still ask - who are the least of the least?
i find the answer to that question at the end of the book of jonah. you may know the story of jonah, a man called by God to go and speak to the people of nineveh. jonah didn't like the people of that city for he thought they were great sinners deserving punishment. he feared if he spoke to them as God instructed him they might repent, and knowing that God is merciful God may bless them instead of curse them. in the end jonah's fears were realized, the people of nineveh repented and God showed mercy to the city. now jonah was very angry with God. God spoke to jonah in an effort to help him understand, and God said to him - "but jonah think of all the innocent little children and the many animals."
here God also answers my question - the least of the least are those who are voiceless, who regardless of strength or courage simply have no voice with which to speak on their own behalf. they are the little children and the animals. are we willing to speak out for them?