Dear Sombath…from Clarissa Militante

Dear Sombath,

The first time I saw your wife was at a friend’s gathering and the second was in a meeting. On both occasions, I was in awe of her. As she spoke, I sensed her strength and quiet confidence. I felt emotional hearing her speak, but I reproached myself. I thought then (and still feel) that I didn’t have the right to share her pain. I would never really understand and appreciate what she and those who personally knew you were going through.

I had reproached myself the same way when I cried while listening to a song about victims of enforced disappearance. We were then preparing for an action at our own department of foreign affairs in the Philippines and I helped translate this song composed and sung by a Filipino folk activist singer. I also told myself then that the pain I felt was nowhere near what the families and friends of victims felt.

But there is one thing I do know and understand: that abduction and enforced disappearance are cowardly acts. Their perpetrators have no principles and values; nothing on which they stand to face legitimate criticism and dissent. Nothing, but brute force which should have no place in a decent, civilized world. But they do exist and thrive.

I oftentimes doubt my small acts of protest; will they amount to anything? But unlike the cowards, human rights advocates and defenders are motivated and energized by humanity/humanness; that these principles shall prevail. Expressed in small acts of defiance against the inhumanity of enforced disappearance, I try to hold on to this fervent prayer inside me that you will be reunited with your family and community that you have loved and served.

Clarissa Militante