The second day of the Boarding School Tribunal was an emotional one. Boarding school survivors and the children of survivors testified about their and their families’ experiences of extreme abuse at the hands of school officials, aculturation, and inter-generational trauma. Survivors spoke of the loss of language and traditions, the breaking apart of families, and the lasting personal impacts of boarding school experiences.
The Human Rights Center staff and 2014-15 Humphrey Fellows Athar Waheed (Pakistan), Aneeta Aahooja (Pakistan), Fasoha (Maldives), Abalo Assih (Togo), and Shiran Gooneratne (Sri Lanka) feel extraordinarily honored to participate in this tribunal.
You can read a re-cap of the second day of testimony and watch a livestream of the proceedings via Censored News.
In 2012, according to the UNHCR, almost 920,000 people applied for asylum or refugee status. These are people who are seeking safety from persecution in their home countries. They are often fleeing from threats of violence, rape, or torture. They may have used their entire life savings to escape their home country. They may be in severe need of medical attention and mental health resources. Yet despite making it to the relative safety of another country, their struggle may be far from over.
On Wednesday, February 19, Humphrey Fellow Liva Sreedharan will discuss how approximately 100,000 refugees in her home country of Malaysia go out of the frying pan and into the fire, escaping persecution in their home countries only to arrive in Malaysia, where they are perceived as illegal immigrants. Ms. Sreedharan will talk about the particular vulnerability of women refugees to abuse and exploitation, and how this ill-treatment is an assault not only on their human rights, but their identities as well.
Congratulations to Philip Aguinaldo (Philippines, 2012-13). He was recently invited by the Philippine Judicial Academy, the education arm of the Supreme Court of the Philippines to be the lecturer on Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy on July 5, 2013 in Manila, as well as a moderator and group facilitator for the same training on July 3rd and 5th. Judges, prosecutors, public attorneys, and court personnel will participate in the training.
We have many opportunities for reflection as we near the end of the 2012-13 Humphrey year. At the Year End Retreat in Maryland, groups of Fellows joyfully received certificates of completion of the Humphrey Program signed by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry. It has been a year filled with challenges and hope. The Peace Building Through Restorative Dialogue Enhancement Workshop offered at the University of Minnesota is a perfect example of this.
On March 20, 2013, Humphrey Fellows started their day visiting prisoners in Lino Lakes Correctional Institution, where they had opportunities to talk to the offenders, victims and their families. In a circle dialogue with homicide survivors and prisoners, the Fellows were extremely empathetic when they heard sincere regrets from the prisoners and grief from the victims’ families. Some of the prisoners’ families were touched by simple hugs from Fellows. ”It has been years since someone has hugged me after they know what my son has done,” said one prisoner’s mother.
It was a morning filled with intense emotions, both inspiring and draining. Before the debriefing circle dialogue in the afternoon, Dr. Mark Umbreit, a Professor and the founding Director of the Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking at the University of Minnesota’s School of Social Work, introduced Qigong and yoga to the workshop attendees as a way to rebuild inner peace and recover emotionally after the difficult morning. During the debriefing circle dialogue, Humphrey Fellows shared their thoughts and feelings about their experience at the correctional institution. Some of them raised questions about healing and forgiveness; some challenged the criminal justice system’s failure to help offenders restart their lives; and some compared the U.S. judicial system to that of their own countries. Dr. Umbreit answered questions using real cases and stories.
It was a powerful day of reflection on the meaning of forgiveness, memory, and justice, concepts that matter within every country, every community, and on a broader scale within the international community as a whole.
Humphrey alumnus Edmon Marukyan was recently profiled in a video produced by the U.S. Alumni Association of Armenia.
In his video interview, Edmon discusses how his year in the U.S. impacted his work in Armenia as a human rights advocate and later as a Member of Parliament.