Thursday, April 19, 2012

Open Letter to Ban Ki-Moon

Last year, I discovered that one of my favorite writers, Roma Tearne, has a blog where she posted, among other things, an open letter to Ban Ki-Moon, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, petitioning him to take action against the war crimes in Sri Lanka. I read her letter with great interest, because I have visited Sri Lanka, because I have fallen in love with someone there, and because he has disappeared.

This morning, I came upon the website of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice and found an invitation to write my own letter to Ban Ki-Moon.

                                        *                    *                    *

Dear Friend,

          Like you, I prefer the poignant quotes about how when we do nothing about injustice, we are actually participating in it, like dumb accomplices. In the end, though, you are stuck in political red tape and, let's face it, Sri Lanka doesn't have oil, so America yawns and turns its attention elsewhere.

          How can we make this genocide "sexy" so the United States, the superpower du jour, and the rest of the world are sufficiently outraged that you will be able to do your job? Everything has to be sexy, right? Documentation of Sri Lanka's genocide and continued human rights violations (murder, torture, kidnapping, rape, intimidation, of course you know the drill) doesn't seem to mobilize the average American, who probably thinks a Tamil is a kind of Mexican food.

          I would like to know how you keep working and fighting for what's right when it's always one step forward and two steps back.  We don't really make progress, do we? But at least we try.

          I went to Sri Lanka 30 years ago as an exchange student. The ISLE Program still takes students to Sri Lanka, year after yearand they call it "immersion."  Of course you know it's a beautiful, exotic country with a rich, multi-cultural history, and really great food. We weren't taught about the atrocities that were happening under our noses; we learned instead about Theravada Buddhism.  We're so accustomed to associating Buddhism with compassion, and palm trees with paradise. The boy I fell in love with in Sri Lanka when I was 20 years old, the man who wrote me letters for over a decade, has been missing for more than 10 years. Rajah would be 50 now.

          Isn't it baffling that an educational institution can so successfully promote tourism in a genocide zone but we can't find a way to promote justice?



  1. A beautifully written letter ... simple, human and to the point.

    1. Thanks, Bongo! Have I told you lately how grateful I am that you're always here, responsive and supportive? I'm so lucky! xxxxx

  2. Brava Charlotte! It is through people such as yourself that change will eventually come to that false paradise in the sun. Only today there was a piece on the BBC website about the suffering inflicted on the Tamils
    How wonderful that you should remember your friend, how wonderful that you should stand up for that memory. today there are only a handful of people who care. One day there will be many.

    1. Thank you, Roma! Of course, you're right--the only acceptable response is to have faith in the future, not to give in. (And never shut up.) I suppose that's how Ban Ki-Moon manages to get up every morning and face the day. Much love.