Eight hundred years ago, Catherine, a woman living in Sienna Italy who was later to become a saint, stated: “Speak the truth in a million voices. It is silence that kills.” Her words haunt me today, as I notice how much silence there is, and how it is growing around the world. Here are just a few examples:
At an international peace conference in Croatia, participants were asked: What keeps you from speaking up for peace?
At an educator’s conference in the U.S., a well-known champion of public education confronted his audience with three important issues that no one was talking about, behavior he dubbed as “our great silences.”
In Europe, many people express remorse that their nations stayed silent as war in the Balkans escalated. Why didn’t they act to prevent the atrocities and massacres of the Bosnian war? (The United Nations issued a formal apology two years ago for its failure to prevent the massacre in Szrebinitsa.[sp?])
In Africa, both Europe and the U.S. have expressed regret for not intervening in Rwanda to stop the slaughter of millions.
In a rural Kenyan village, a young African woman dying of AIDS wonders why America is so silent on the AIDS pandemic. She asks her sister who lives in Seattle: “Does anybody know that we’re dying?”