Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What will you do if a woman told you her story of violence and rape?

A group of five men came into her home and raped her in front of her children. After the second rape, the children were rounded up, told to kneel and pray, and then were shot in the back of their heads in front of their mother. Afterwards, the rape resumed...

This is one of the stories that Jimmie Briggs told last night at his university lecture on Compassionate Journalism.

As the woman told the story to Jimmie, he began to apologize profusely for opening up the wound and traumatizing the woman all over again. He stood up to leave but the woman grabbed his hand and told him to sit down. I want to tell my story so that I won't have to carry it alone. I want you to carry my story with you and let people know what is happening to us here.

Having heard this story, I, too, now carry it with me. I think about all the other stories that Jimmie told last night about the child soldiers (both boys and girls) in different parts of the world caught in the crossfires of conflict.

I can relate to these stories because I've seen the image of a child in the Southern Philippines sleeping on a hammock, cradling an armalite. (This moved Fr. Alejo and his artist friends to create this lullaby for peace in Mindanao).

Jimmie has also launched MAN UP campaign. In his talk, Jimmie talked about the need to have more women journalists documenting gender violence in the midst of war.

"Dying to tell a story" is a film about a sister's attempt to understand her journalist brother's death while covering a war in Somalia. After watching a clip from this film last night, a high school student asked Jimmie if he ever had to make a choice between photographing a conflict and saving people; he was also asked if he ever had to shoot an "enemy" while covering a story.
Clearly, these students were paying attention. Maybe someday some of them will become compassionate journalists.

An elder man asked the big question: what is the cause of this violence? There is no simple answer, Jimmie said, but for sure, he said, what we need are witnesses and advocates.

Everyday I think about this question. We have lost our compass. We don't have a cosmic story and the story that we tell ourselves doesn't work...i mused all the way home.

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