Tuesday, May 10, 2005

An open letter from the ICF's Founder President and President to Owners, Editors and Producers of the Media. 

Dear Fellow Media Professionals

Out of a brutal, sudden, over-whelming world catastrophe we have been working to promote generosity and sacrifice. to identify needs and to propose solutions, to present heroism and to show pity; and to devote pages and broadcasting time to the realities of suffering and courage, instead of to the irrelevant posturings and murky behaviour of so-called celebrities and self-seeking personalities.

We have even been encouraging our leaders to show their best sides instead of just revealing their petty weaknesses. And we believe that we have all been happier and more fulfilled in this role. We may also be beginning to lose the embedded negative mindset that has blighted and discouraged the lives of ourselves and our audiences.

Whilst journalists are not, like politicians and diplomats, paid to solve the world's problems. we do influence the moral and social climate which makes it easier or more difficult to solve these problems. This natural disaster has given us the chance to become a great inspiring force for a more worthwhile civilisation. Let us resist all attempts from the sources of greed and cynicism to divert us from this re-found path.

We can help to build a world where blame-seeking and rights¬ claiming are replaced by responsibility to society and service to others. We can help to ensure that the work and wealth of the world becomes available to all at the exploitation of none. We can work to bring understanding between individuals, communities, nations and races, so that peace becomes the permanent condition of humanity. It is up to each of us to respond according to our conscience and our ability.

William Porter, Founder President

Bernard Margueritte, President

The Tsunami disaster - an ICF colleague's loss
Vijitha Yapa, a former journalist and owner of a chain of bookshops in Sri Lanka writes to tell us that he lost three cousins drowned in their own house and an uncle during the recent tidal wave, which swept across the South and East coasts of his country. His bookshop in Galle, a heavily damaged coastal town, was totally destroyed. "And," he says, "the loss in monetary terms is about 15 million rupees. But we are grateful that all our staff were spared. Books can be replaced, but how can we replace lives lost? "

Vijitha chaired the one-day ICF seminar for 70 Sri Lankan journalists led by William Porter, the ICF's Founder President, and Sir Mark Tully, (former head of the BBC's New Delhi bureau) in February, 2003 at the time of the Commonwealth Press Union's biennial conference in Colombo.

We are grateful for Vijitha’s safety and our hearts go out to him and his countrymen and women at this tragic time.

Wise after the Event
From an article in Tygodnik Solidarność (the Polish Solidarity Weekly)
by ICF President Bernard Margueritte

Could it be that the Tsunami tragedy in Asia was, if not a warning from God, maybe a waking call. We have seen how, confronted with the awful dimension of this tragedy, people felt suddenly that they were citizens of the world, responsible for the common destiny, sharing the same problems and sufferings. To the wave of the infuriated sea responded an improbable wave of human compassion and worldwide solidarity. Even groups fighting each other for 20 years in Sri Lanka got in contact to make help possible. In Hong Kong Chinese stars recorded a new version of the song “We are the World”, composed after the drama of the famine in Africa in 1985. They called it “love” and made clear that they did not want to make any commercial use of it.

It seems that this terrible event was an eye-opener for all people. It showed how our disputes and confrontations are petty and even ridiculous. Our planet is small and we are sharing the same fate. What is happening in the Amazon or in Indonesia has an impact on our lives in France or Poland. In this context our “strategic” debates look ludicrous and sadly ridiculous. Is America a “super-power”? Is the Atlantic alliance compatible with an affirmed European identity? Does Russia belong to Europe or not? Or is China the true new “super-power”?

Tsunami, my friends, shows us with a dramatic power that all this doesn’t make sense at all! To speak today about this or another “super-power” should only bring about a bewildered smile. Not only because we see how the super-power that was supposed to dominate the world cannot handle the situation in small Iraq. Much more importantly simply because we are realizing that we are all sitting on the same branch, we all live - with ever growing difficulty - in the same boat.

This Asian waking call is indeed extremely symbolic in more than one way. Some are wondering if one dimension of this symbolism is not the fact that people died together, those from a world so wealthy that it can give away its money on exotic travel and, close to them, the poorest of the poor citizens of the countries they were visiting. Shouldn’t this make us think about the sense of our development, about justice, about human solidarity? Wasn’t this God’s intervention?

And indeed confronted with this tragedy (was it necessary to experience it?) people are beginning to think, and even to think about God. In a very interesting article in The Los Angeles Times (01/05), Mark Magnier writes about the bewilderment of the citizens of the affected countries, when they see that places of worship — Christian or Buddhist— have escaped almost untouched. They share the amazement of the people, who in Europe after the war, could not believe that cathedrals and churches were often the only buildings remaining standing in a sea of ruins.

Lionel Eerasinghe, coordinator of the NGO The Sri Lanka Foundation, observes: “Every place we go, the Buddhist statues are without damage; people believe they have special protection”. The Los Angeles Time’ notices: “Even those whose belief in religion has waned admit that their brush with this raw power, which killed more than 30 000 people in Sri Lanka alone, has forced them to reexamine their view of faith and spirituality” and many are not afraid to speak about it openly. For example, a 47-year old lady from Denmark, who barely escaped with her son, admitted: “I’ve started to think, what is wrong with our global system, and why has so much pain fallen upon Sri Lanka?” and she adds: “While I’m not a member of any organized religion, I find myself praying to something out there for help”.

So it is that Mohammed Nazar, a Muslim businessman from Galle in Sri Lanka emphasizes: “Before, people weren’t sure there was a God, but now they are. God has brought great floods as a warning. Whether you’re a Buddhist, a Christian or a Muslim, this is a sign to live according to your religion”.

Let us then hope that this tragedy could be the beginning of a new era. An era of brotherhood and solidarity. Maybe this is just an utopian view. Maybe one tragedy is not enough for that to happen. But, truly, why should globalisation remain the globalisation of the bad, of money, of materialism, of a Godless world? Why should not globalisation be also the globalisation of the good, the globalisation of love, the globalisation of solidarity? Indeed, we all see in these days that this is after all possible.

Click here to read the article in Polish.