CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 November 2018

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Maintaining a silence to kill

In the world today where violence and the violation of human rights are marked with a reluctance to take a stand against evil, not to report child abuse, not to oppose torture and not to oppose murder is a failure to confront criminal behaviour.

It is an indication of a culture of silence that could well be considered complicit in heinous crimes.

The silence that is born of the unwillingness to challenge abusers and even those of abusive authorities has to be seriously examined by both individuals and communities.

Why is it that thousands of children, one in four, according to some estimates, are sexually abused, beaten, hurt and violated on a regular basis, yet the majority of cases go unreported? Authorities are inactive and justice is frequently denied to the victims.

The worst abuse is when an amicable settlement is reached between a child abuser and the parents or relatives of a child victim. For a share of the payoff, a government official negotiates a settlement.

The child and its suffering are ignored, justice and healing are denied. This areglo (easy settlement) system must be stopped.

The silence of the victims in aftermath of heinous crimes is perpetuated through trauma and fear. The victims of sexual abuse are, in most cases, unable to cry out to seek justice.

They are just children, there is pressure from family not to shame a relative or to blame the child giving overwhelming feelings of imposed guilt. They carry the secret buried in their hearts all their lives.

Victims of torture, police brutality, violence and human trafficking are frequently silent because they or their families may be threatened by the authorities or the goons of a powerful criminal or syndicate.

Silence in the face of crimes against the innocent when we should act for justice and speak out can be a criminal offence. Not to do so is morally wrong. This is especially true of duty bearers, who are people in authority mandated to speak out and protect the community, but fail to do so.

Failure to report a crime is seen by some as complicity or being an indirect accomplice to the crime.

The reality of mass killings in countries like Rwanda, Syria, Kenya, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the Srebrenica massacre happened, is a shocking lesson in the failure to protect victims.

In The Philippines, many suspects are arbitrarily murdered. All people of moral integrity and principle must protest at the inhumanity of it. They must never applaud or support a single death.

The victims are only suspects; they are named, marked and killed without evidence or due process. We must act to stop such arbitrary killing and demand justice. If the rule of law does not apply to all, it applies to none.

Where such systematic murder occurs, no human being has the right to remain silent, then do little or nothing. The moral imperative is to open a dialogue with the forces behind such atrocities. Blessed are those that do so.

Institutions that uphold moral values, such as the right to life and due process, are obligated to speak out against abuse and violations of human rights, or their credibility is damaged and may be lost.

They who uphold the values of life and liberty cannot remain silent and still be true to their profession, faith and values.

Failure to take a stand degrades and diminishes the national moral culture that is at the heart of right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust.

The moral values, principles and dignity of a nation, as found in its constitution, must be defended, or the soul of the nation will be degraded and blemished.

When moral values are confined to the classroom and do not come to the forefront of a non-violent march, a peaceful protest, a statement denouncing wrong and upholding life and human dignity, they are dead.

Society will be living in a graveyard surrounding by the corpses of the victims, we will be haunted by our guilt, inaction and silence.

The anniversary on November 23 of the massacre of so many people in Maguindanao, Mindanao, in 2009, where 58 were brutally murdered, calls for protest. While many suspects were brought to trial, justice has yet to be handed down.

Silence in the face of mass murder is the worst example that can be given to young people, the next generation.

This is how it was during the years of martial law in The Philippines. A culture of silence and acquiesence to the horrors that were being perpetuated pervaded society for 20 years.

Many welcomed martial law as the solution to so-called anarchy, but then to their dismay, realised the great harm and evil that it brought upon the nation.

Those brave enough to speak out and oppose oppression and evil were exiled, eliminated and murdered. Others did unite and worked underground to expose the evil and bring down the dictator.

Today, we need the same voices and people of courage and bravery, who can overcome fear and take a stand for what is just and right and what is honest and true.

 

What we cannot abide is the silence of the grave and those that lie therein.