In the world today where violence and the violation of human rights is marked by a reluctance to take a stand against evil, not to report child abuse and not to oppose torture and murder is failure to confront criminal behavior. It is an indication that we are in a culture of silence and could be complicit in heinous crimes.
The silence that is born of the unwillingness to challenge the abusers and even the abusive authorities has to be seriously examined in individuals and communities. Why is it that thousands of children, one in four, according to some estimates, are sexually abused, beaten, hurt and violated yet the majority of the cases go unreported, authorities are inactive and justice is frequently denied the victims?
The worst abuse is when an “amicable” settlement is reached between the abuser and the parents or relatives of the child victim. For a share of the payoff, a government official will negotiate a settlement. The child and her suffering are ignored, justice and healing is denied her. This “areglo” system must be stopped.
The silence of the victims in the aftermath of heinous crimes against them is because of trauma and fear. The victims of sexual abuse are, in most cases, unable to cry out and seek justice. There is pressure from family members not to shame a relative. Or the child has been wrongly blamed and has 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 can be a criminal offense. Not to do so is morally wrong. This is especially true of 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 many countries (to name a few: Rwanda, Syria, Kenya and in Bosnia and Herzegovina where the Srebrenica massacre happened) is a shocking lesson in the failure to protect the victims.
Also in the Philippines, where many suspects are murdered, all people of moral values and principles must protest 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 killing occurs, all humans have no right to remain silent and do little or nothing. The moral imperative is to open a dialogue with the forces behind such atrocities. Blessed are those who 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 will be damaged and possibly 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 and principles and dignity of a nation, as found in its Constitution, have to 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 surrounded by the corpses of the victims. We ought be haunted by our guilt, inaction and silence.
The anniversary on November 23 of the massacre of many people in Maguindanao, Mindanao in 2009, when 58 people were brutally killed, calls for protest. Many suspects were brought to trial, yet justice has yet to be handed down.
This silence in the face of mass murder is the worst example we can give the youth, the next generation. This is how it was during the years of martial law in the Philippines. A culture of silence and acquiescence to the horrors that were perpetrated pervaded society for 20 years. Many welcomed martial law as the solution to so-called anarchy but then to their dismay realized the great harm and evil that it brought upon the nation.
Those brave enough to speak out and oppose oppression and evil were exiled or eliminated and killed. Others united 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.