MAKING OUR VOICES BE HEARD
Name: María Jaramillo Restrepo
City: Manizales, Colombia
School: Asociación Colegio Granadino
Level: High School Student (Senior)
Paris, France. January 21, 2006. Ilan Halimi is kidnapped by Moroccan rebels and tortured to death for 24 days. He is beaten, stabbed, cut, burned with acid and gasoline, and finally set afire. Neighbors hear the commotion and watch the occurrence, yet no one ever calls the police.
Norte de Santander, Colombia. Late 2008. 19 corpses are found, belonging to innocent young men who had disappeared in the city of Soacha and who were reported days later as rebels killed in combat. This event unleashed the scandal known as “false positives” which was the Colombian army´s alleged practice of murdering civilians and dressing them up as members of the Colombian guerrilla in order to report them as combat deaths. These murders were done mostly for governmental popularity and for military promotions and money given by the body count policy. Over 3,000 civilians were killed as a result of this conflict between 2002 and 2008. On January 7, 2009, a document from the CIA revealed that these “extrajudicial executions” were common practice within the army. Yet no one said anything.
Bangui, Central African Republic. December 10, 2012. Michel Djotodia seizes power, together with the Muslim Seleka rebels, accusing François Bozizé´s Christian government of not abiding to the peace treaties signed in 2007 and 2011. War erupts. 25% of the population has been internally displaced, more than half of the population needs assistance, and around 6,000 child soldiers have been recruited as part of the conflict. C.A.R. occupies the place 185 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index, making it one of the poorest countries in the world with shortage of food, water and shelter. Today the war is still ongoing with murders, decapitations and even one case of cannibalism. Yet this conflict is still known as the world´s most silent crisis.
Genocide. Bullying. Corruption. And these are just a few examples. But why do we allow all these things to happen? Because humankind is selfish.
I was reading the poem The Hangman, which talks about a hangman who arrives in town and kills all its citizens one by one, while the narrator watches until there is no one left but him. He states: “None had stood so alone as I/ And the Hangman strapped me, and no voice there/ Cried ´Stay!´ for me in the empty square”. This verse definitely makes us reflect on our selfishness because we are always expecting others to help us, yet we don´t do the same for them. Moreover, our nature is not to put ourselves in the other´s shoes because we think it won´t ever happen to us. Or we simply don´t stand up because we are cowards.
In the next century I would like to see less bystanding and more upstanding. I would like for people to start caring for others instead of caring first for themselves. I would like for people to rid their fear away and start acting with courage. If more of us were willing to stand up, the world would definitely be a better place.
According to Genocide Watch, there are 8 Stages of Genocide, and it all starts with classification, or distinguishing between “us and them”. If we stopped bystanding in small cases of discrimination in our daily lives, we could break the whole chain that leads to genocide. If people were more tolerant towards others, we could accept our differences and live peacefully in community. By stopping intolerance and hate, we could pave the way for hope.
Gandhi left us the legacy of standing up for what is right: “More than the acts of evil, I am horrified at the indifference of the good”. By standing idly while others commit acts of injustice, we are allowing and even supporting this evilness to happen. If we are valiant enough to speak up, we can change the course of events and even save other´s lives. It´s that simple.
Psychologists have argued for years that the more people present in an accident or act of evilness, the less likely it is that they will help. They call this the bystander effect. However, if more people started thinking less on themselves and more on their peers, the vicious circle of bystanders could be stopped. Wouldn´t we want others to do the same thing for us? Why are we so afraid to be different? Perhaps because it takes a lot of bravery to stand away from a crowd absorbed by mob mentality.
Humans have a natural tendency to adopt the mentality of a larger group because they are afraid of feeling alone. However, all of us have more potential. Every one of us has the capacity of stopping the evil. We are not good when we don´t do evil acts. We are good when we prevent them.
I want to see more inspirational people. I want more reporters who are not afraid to show the world the truth. I want more people fighting for peace and not for war.
I invite you to watch the news the next time with new eyes. The headlines always shock us with stories of terrorism, abuse and inequality. This time the stories on the headlines will be a chance to act. To at least raise awareness. To help solve problems starting with our own families or communities.
I invite you to get out of bed and go help someone in need. Get a smile on a vulnerable children´s face. Or even spend the afternoon with the elderly in a nursing home.
I invite you to make your voice be heard. Our steps don´t have to be huge. They just have to be steps. Sometimes the first step is the hardest but it can make others move too. We are not going to settle with the world in which live.
With the power of our voice and our actions we can help change the way our world works. This is not just something I would like to see happen in the world. It is something that we can start to make happen today. If we are enough, our voices won´t be shut. Yes. It takes effort. And sacrifice. And courage. But step by step we can change hate to love.
So, are we ready to make this world a better place?