Thoughts on International Day of The Disappeared

Hand pulling back curtains

Thanks to social media and mobile phones, it is not difficult for most of us to get in touch with friends and family whenever we want to, no matter where they are in the world. For some however, this is not possible. It is worth remembering today that there are many people whose whereabouts are unknown.

Today is International Day of the Disappeared, created to draw attention to the fate of individuals imprisoned at places and under conditions which are unknown to their relatives or legal representatives. The definition of “the missing” or “the disappeared” goes far beyond the victims of enforced disappearance: it includes all those who have lost contact with their families and friends as a result of conflict, natural disasters, or other tragedies. These missing people may be detained, stranded in foreign countries, hospitalised, or may even have passed away.

Through its tracing services and by working with 189 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) seeks to obtain information about the fate of missing persons on behalf of their families. It reminds governments and other groups of their obligations to respect families’ rights to know the fate of their loved ones. It also works with families of the missing to help address their specific psychological, social, legal, and financial needs.

Imprisonment under secret or uncertain circumstances is, in most cases, deemed a grave violation of human rights as well as, in the case of an armed conflict, a violation of International Humanitarian Law. As we go about our business today, let's remember and treasure the fact we enjoy freedom of movement, action, and speech – and that with that comes the moral obligation to speak up for those who do not have these essential human rights.

As meditators, we increasingly pick up on the subtleties and nuances which arise in our day-to-day lives. Let us extend this heightened awareness beyond our immediate world to include others who are denied the basic rights we so often take for granted.

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Anthony Thompson