NEW YORK, USA: Yesterday, Amnesty members and supporters held silent vigils worldwide asking for a ceasefire in Israel and Lebanon. We had about 60 simulateneous vigils in cities all across the United States alone joining together to simply stand with the victims on both sides of the Israel/Lebanese conflict. Our message was:
1) Call for a ceasefire
2) Demand that all governments stop the supply of arms to the conflict
3) Stand in solidarity with victims and survivors on both sides of the Israel Lebanon conflict
Click the link below to see a video of our DC vigil, covered by The Washington Post:
I attended one that one of my colleagues organized in front of Penn Station, one of the busiest intersections in Manhattan during rush hour. I have to admit I was a bit unprepared, unlike my Executive Director who donned his Amnesty t-shirt for the event (he usually wears a button-down shirt and tie). But the important thing was that I got out there - I passed out "Urgent Action" flyers asking people to write to the US govt, Israeli govt and Hizbullah and held a big homemade poster that said "STOP the sale of arms" and "CEASEFIRE".
Standing still and silent in a big, loud intersection in a huge city like NY during evening rush hour gives you an interesting perspective of the world:
First, it made me re-realize how silly it is how important we all think our own lives and schedules are, rushing around to get to our destination, totally disconnected from the rest of the world. We plug into iPods earphones or bury our noses in our train reading. I confess, I am one of the biggest offenders of this horrible habit of residents in capitalist, industrialized society. There is just so much information to consume, and in that process, you get disconnected from what the heck you are actually reading or hearing about. Ironic I've spent hours of my life reading about and listening about the Lebanon crisis, but haven't had time to actually do anything about it until Mon night!
The other thing I re-gained an appreciation for is how difficult it exactly is to change the world. Changing the world starts with changing someone's mind - and if you think it's difficult to change President Bush's mind, try a busy New Yorker's! When trying to hand out flyers, the negative reactions I received ranged from annoyance and utter disinterest to anger while the positive reactions included people signing petitions, asking for more copies of our flyers, and thanking us for holding the event. Some people smiled and others looked at me like I was dirt. My biggest frustration was that I only had less than 1 second to make an impression on them; and usually their reaction is dictated by what they already believe, not of the merit of our argument.
It made me really appreciate all of the people who go out to protest what they believe in, sign petitions and write letters. It takes a lot of effort, energy and courage and it DOES make a difference. Even though the prognosis for a ceasefire in the Middle East is grim, I can at least be proud of the fact that we are doing our best to advocate for victims of human rights violations. And that was enough, at least for yesterday.