“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.
During my short time as intern at ICT, I have been exposed to the politics that surround the struggle for basic human rights and freedoms within Tibet. I’ve learned that much of what constitutes a good campaign is the ability to join forces with others, and that this collective strength is necessary for any sort of meaningful change.
Yesterday morning, I was blessed to attend the fifth anniversary of the Victims of Communism Memorial. Huddled close to the narrow statue of the Goddess of Democracy (a replica of that which was constructed by vibrant youths during the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989) were a wide array of organizations and individuals speaking out for those whose fundamental human rights—freedom of speech, of thought, of religion and assembly—had been violated by various Communist regimes. It was an assembly that would have resulted in arbitrary imprisonment and torture had it taken place within contemporary China.
The ceremony provided a stage for survivors to tell their story. One such survivor, a Tibetan woman named Ms. Ghang Lhamo, faced torture in the Laogai prison system for simply voicing support for the Dalai Lama. Her message was clear: that the world should respond to injustice and provide an environment of international accountability. “This problem may seem big,” she said, “but we believe that if all countries that stand for freedom and human rights worked together, achieving true freedom would only be a matter of time.” She ended her speech with a moving quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who succeeded in his peaceful campaign through the power of the spoken word and non-violent action.
Other speakers included Reggie Littlejohn, president of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, who brought to light the mass “gendercide” that is committed by the CCP’s One-Child Policy. She told the recent and moving story of one young woman, seven months pregnant, whose baby was forcibly removed from her belly and laid down beside her. Annette Lantos (Chairman of the Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice) spoke on behalf of herself as well as her husband, Tom Lantos, the only survivor of the terrible Nazi Holocaust to serve in Congress. She stressed the universality of the obligation to protect human rights through metaphor: life is like reading a book, and to be only concerned with the internal affairs of one’s own country is like reading only the first page.
The movement for the universal attainment of human rights embodies an entire network of individuals whose unique personal stories serve to demonstrate that we are not alone in our struggle. This memorial provides hope and inspiration to the millions who still suffer under tyranny around the world.