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Throughout history, world institutions have been built to serve the best interests and welfare of society. The legislative measures aimed at aiding children and disadvantaged groups in need not only failed, but also contributed to the detriment for society’s vulnerable children and ethnic groups. Whether ill or well intended, these institutions have, instead, built their future on the misfortunes of others.

It is only through the courage of survivors at home and abroad that society has been forced to look at the harsh realities of institutional abuse. Society is all too often slow to acknowledge institutional omissions and commissions. The Federation honours the legacy of survivors and victims of institutional child abuse by finding the cause of such horrors and correcting the problems we find to ensure such human tragedies never happen again in any land.

I address you today because of my deep interest in this cause. I am a survivor of institutional abuse. Marcel Proust wrote, “We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.” I have spent many restless nights haunted by the memories of my own sufferings and the sufferings of other survivors I have known throughout my life. I am an idealist. I still believe in humanity despite the horrors of my own childhood and the past of so many others. The greatest injustice is the voices of those whose lives were claimed by abuse – people who may never be heard, their stories never told.

The aims of International Institutional Child Abuse Memorial Day Service project are to engender acknowledgement for wrongdoings, as well as to create dignity through the healing process. The unveiling of such abuse does not have to be to the detriment of one organization, group or people. Such exposure can provide lessons to ensure history does not repeat itself in any land in any time to come.

I once read a poem written by a survivor of child abuse. Her closing words were "to make the darkness sing" I think this is representative of what so many of us are trying to achieve on this issue.

Our greatest danger is indifference. In a speech entitled "The Perils of Indifference", delivered to the White House, Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and novelist, wrote: "So much violence, so much indifference. In a way, to be indifferent to that suffering is what makes the human being inhuman. Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger and hatred.

Anger can be creative at times. A person who writes a great poem or a great symphony has done something special for the sake of humanity because that person is angry at the injustice that he or she has witnessed.

But indifference is never creative. Even hatred, at times, may elicit a response. You fight it. You denounce it. You disarm it. Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response.
Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor, never his victim whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten.

The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees. To not respond to their plight, to not relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own."

There is much to be done. Much good still can come from our efforts. Change will not come from the good we possess, but the good we can do together. We must always make our efforts to empathize, to discern and replace violence with goodwill and decency, and to help others to return to a more human time and place in their lives, where the promises of humanity are at last fulfilled for all.

In closing, I would like to share with you a poem written after September 11th:

"Thousands of blossoms, red, brown, white, yellow, black scattered on ground made tender by their falling. This human body, more fragile than the dew drops on the countless tips of morning grass. My wailing voice is the bright September wind and in the dark night, silence speaks: I will die only when love dies and you will not let love die."

As we mourn lost lives, we also measure how our response can affect that human tragedy. By remaining attentive to this value and ideal, you can assure the cause remains very much present for all of us.

Yours in the spirit of healing,

Roch Longueépée

Internations’ Justice Federation

© Copyright 2003 Internations' Justice Federation