These are deeply troubling times for all of us who work to build a world where dignity, truth and justice shine through the darkness of hatred, fear and bigotry. Here in the U.S., in the days since the inauguration of President Trump we have seen a stunning escalation in discriminatory policies and rhetoric, including the closing of our national borders to the world’s most vulnerable, an action that appears to target Muslims while calling out refugees en masse as threats; blatant intimidation of the press; and a tenacious willingness by the President to dismiss basic legal norms and deny scientific truths while stoking fear of “the other,” emphasizing our differences instead of our commonalities and collective humanity.
All of which is staggering, yes, but it is not new.
As the only global network that uses history to foster human rights, the 200+ members of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience know well where regressive and repressive policies lead. The proof is in our work every day: From the conflict raging in South Sudan, to the killing fields of Cambodia, the families of the disappeared in Argentina, the journalists jailed in Egypt, and the citizens of color filling U.S. prisons.
No, this is not new.
And yet what is new is the energy and passion in the Sites of Conscience movement today. Our voices have never been stronger, our platform never more visible, our numbers never greater. We know that shining the light of truth can cut through the darkness, and we are redoubling our efforts to ensure that it does, that the policies and practices of this new administration do not allow a further lowering of the bar for governments and regimes across the globe, that victims and survivors the world over achieve justice and the right to live in peace.
We are reaching out today to share a sampling of new Coalition initiatives launching in the coming days, all developed with the goal of harnessing the unparalleled strength of the Sites of Conscience movement at this critical moment:
- A rapid-response committee of members will be activated and positioned to respond to emerging threats to truth and justice, offering advocacy and guidance to peer institutions who need it in real time, as events unfold.
- Far-reaching new trainings will enhance the capacity of Sites of Conscience to work effectively in challenging political climates, develop new strategies to foster engagement among diverse audiences, and hone innovative approaches to respond to emerging local issues as well as global themes.
- An aggressive media campaign will both highlight lessons learned from history and document what occurs when history is rewritten, all through the testimonies shared and amplified at Sites of Conscience the world over.
- Recognizing that divides are deepening among Americans on immigration and security issues, we will escalate multi-dimensional support for Sites of Conscience to host much-needed dialogue programs that begin to mitigate the polarization, bringing community members from differing perspectives together to explore fears and hopes around economic justice, immigration and national security.
- A groundbreaking new Coalition website will bring histories, personal stories and public dialogue alive, in a dynamic, intuitive and engaging new platform for our 200+ member institutions, their communities and the larger public.
The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience