It’s been 4 years.
Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria… The Arab Spring, ignited – literally – by Mohamed Bouazizi – turned the Middle East and North-Africa into countries the rest of the world could actually point out on a map. Breaking News, on every channel. No one would shut up about the events. Reporters, politicians, activists – and most important – the average next door Johny six-pack knew about the call for freedom. They may have been mixing up revolutionaries and presidents, but that didn’t matter. Tunisians inspired Egyptians, Palestinians cheered for the Algerians – and the Europeans nodded in satisfaction as the Arabs – united in religion and sex – showed the world they don’t live in caves and desire to be free. Like them. “We are all Arabs” – the prelude to “Je Suis” – dominated Social Media in solidarity with all those who lost their lives for freedom. Martyrs. Heroes. They were loved and everyone tried to take a share of their fame online with Hash tags and the first to like that video that went viral.
But that was 4 years ago. Today, reporters risk beheading – and often are not able to make the news if it ain’t about another throat-cutting jihadi. Politicians debate endlessly about how to protect their borders, cut the costs of asylum seekers, prevent youngster from becoming radical and increasing surveillance to monitor migrants boarding trains to the east. Activists are potential terrorists if their solidarity reeks of criticism towards their government’s inaction. Humanitarian aid awaits at corrupted boarders. And Johny Six-Pack has switched back to “Europe’s Got Talent”.
The focus has shifted from the victim – the heroes – to the perpetrators – the Hollywood villains. Both are on the rise. And so are the bystanders and their silence.
“What can I do? I don’t understand who’ the bad guys are! I can’t help they’re all killing each other” I often hear.
Well, I don’t have the solution either. I wish I had the power to remove all perpetrators and set all victims free. But I don’t have that power. What I do have, is a voice. And I believe we must use it. To speak out in solidarity with the victims. To speak out against war. To demand from those with power, to use their power for humanity. Simply to refuse being a silent bystander.
Elie Wiesel – survivor of the Holocaust, wrote: “What hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander”
Where in this holocaust is the word of God? …
The world was silent; the world was still.
And now, survivors stammer; their words are haunted.
Behind their words: silence.
Behind the silence, a witness to the sin of silence…
And in the camps and streets of Europe
mother and father and child lay dying,
and many looked away.
To look away from evil:
Is this not the sin of all “good” people?
Perhaps some of the blame falls on me,
Because I kept silent, uttered no cry.
Fear froze my heart and confused my mind.
And I did not resist the lie…
Cowardice came down and walked the earth.
We hid our true feelings from one another.
We did not hear the cry of a friend.
And our own cry we often had to smother….
Courage was branded treason,
Betrayal was called heroic, bold.
Light hung its head in shame,
Waiting that at least one man should cry out:
“No!” but no one cried.
Only one thing was left—the patience to wait,
To wait that justice might prevail one day.
Perhaps that was part of my blame,
That I kept silent, did not speak,
As though I had nothing to say.
We said “Never again!”
This time, if we do remain silent, let it at least be a silence of tribute. And not of ignorace.
1 minute for France, 4 years for Syria.
Today, March 15th, 2o15. Let us speak out loud and say “Je Suis Syrien”.