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
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
"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,
Internations’ Justice Federation