Tuesday 22 July 2008

Member Care and Human Rights--11

Civil Rights--Lessons for Member Care

We recently saw the 1996 American film, Ghosts of Mississippi.
It is about civil rights—which are based on human rights—and justice.

The movie is about a famous court case in the USA involving a prominent black civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1963 (Medgar Evers). The main suspect of this hate-crime was a man known to be a real advocate of white supremacy. He was not convicted since the jury could not come to a conclusion. In fact, there were two trials, but the same conclusion: a “hung” jury and no conviction.

Some 30 years later (1993) the case was reopened (after much opposition) and retried. This time the man was found guilty, and brought to justice.

This story is an outstanding and sobering account of what it takes to see human rights upheld and to see justice done. Whether it involves supporting the welfare of mission/aid staff or publically advocating on behalf of oppressed people groups, justice can in fact be achieved. But it is not easy. Idealism and good will are almost never enough. Some lessons that come out clearly from this movie:

**1. “Ghosts of injustice” will haunt you unless you confront them. They will likely huant you even more if you confront them--until justice is done.
**2. Justice does not happen usually unless one actively pursues it.
**3. There are intentional hindrances to uncovering and disseminating “facts”: cover-ups, lost information/evidence, harassment.
**4. It takes time, patience, and professionalism, not to mention key support, for justice to be done.
**5. People are often unwilling to help: to inconvenience themselves, to threaten their livelihood, to be ostracised by others and above all to “change one’s way of life”. This is true of individuals, organisations, communities, and countries.
**6. There are some people however who cannot simply look the other way and ignore gross injustice. These people are resolutely committed to pursue truth and justice, and will not take “no” for an answer. They are willing to face extreme negative consequences, including defamation and sometimes even death, in order to act with integrity and help others.
**7. Perpetrators of injustice and their accomplices often fall into their own traps.
**8. Eventually, society and organisational ethos can change but it usually takes a lot of hard work, over time, crises, confrontation, regime changes, and new leaders to see it come about.
**9. Don’t give up. Note that today, the state of Mississippi in the USA has more elected officials who are black than any other American state.
**10. etc.!

Reflection and Discussion
1. Watch a 12 minute interview from 1996 with the widow of Medgar Evars and the Assistant District Attorney that successfully reopened/prosecuted this case. One interesting addition to the movie based on this interview is the ongoing, pervasive prayer that accompanied the pursuit of justice (watch minutes 22 through 34)

2. Listen also to the special report from 2003 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Medgar’s assassination. It is done by National Public Radio’s “All Thing’s Considered.”

No comments: