An Open Letter of Thanks to Mr. Chris Flaherty – Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia

May 8th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

We Ethiopians are overwhelmed with gratitude for what you are doing for Birtukan Mideksa, (more…)

We Ethiopians are overwhelmed with gratitude for what you are doing for Birtukan Mideksa, an Ethiopian prisoner of conscience and popular opposition leader, whose integrity, courage and love for her fellow Ethiopians made her such a threat to the current dictatorial regime of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi that she was given a life sentence for simply refusing to compromise the truth!

She is a real heroine in the Ethiopian peoples’ struggle for freedom, justice, democracy and the respect of human rights. No words can adequately express our appreciation for what you are doing for her through your hunger strike, but the impact of your sacrifice does not stop there.

As you stand up for her; you are also drawing attention to the thousands of other political prisoners throughout Ethiopia, who like Birtukan, are heroes in our fight for freedom. They too have been imprisoned for daring to take a moral stand; confronting this repressive government through words and actions and through refusing to cooperate with a system grounded in tyranny, corruption and apartheid practices.

Birtukan is a prime example of someone who has given much for the betterment of others; first choosing to become a judge who would stand for genuine justice; then attempting to bring change through political service and now, accepting imprisonment rather than lying for a corrupt regime. As she refused to give into the government’s cover-up, she upheld not only her personal beliefs, but also the importance of truth as the foundation of a healthy society; however, in doing so, she made a huge sacrifice by leaving behind her small child and her elderly mother. For over a year, she has not been there to kiss her child good night; to read her stories before bed or to help relieve the burdens on her mother. She has been taken away from her family, but in doing so, she has given to us an extraordinary model of strength, courage and conviction; something not many do, even in the world.

She is doing what Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, the Reverent Martin Luther King and Aung San Suu kyi have done in going to jail so other people can someday be free; like Ghandi who gave up privilege and sometimes his physical freedom to take on the cause of his fellow Indian people; like the Reverend Martin Luther King, who gave up his life so African American people could gain their God-given rights; like Nelson Mandela, who left his own family behind for 26 years so that his larger extended family of South Africans could find freedom and equality after years of apartheid; or like Aung San Suu kyi who has spent fourteen of the last twenty years in confinement in order to bring freedom to the people of Myanmar.

Now, you are bringing attention to Birtukan’s sacrifice through a sacrifice of your own—a hunger strike—something that we the people of Ethiopia—who Birtukan went to jail for—are not doing. We thank you! Your commitment is a real source of inspiration to Ethiopians who have often felt forgotten in their struggle for freedom.

So many in free societies around the world turn away in indifference to the injustice, pain and suffering of those beyond their own families, neighborhoods and communities, but you are showing human compassion that crosses national borders, oceans and continents to take up the hand of another human being whose stand against injustice has made her a victim of that same injustice. Darkness hates the light and to this TPLF government, exposing the truth is the crime that imprisoned Birtukan and so many others. Now, you have become a new means to reveal the truth—something that cannot easily be silenced because your voice is coming from the free world! In standing in solidarity with Birtukan—putting her “humanity before ethnicity, nationality or any other distinctions”—you have shown what it means to be “human.”

Taking on our God-given responsibility to protect, care, love and nurture others, is what makes us human. Unfortunately, we live in this world where injustice and violence is regularly perpetrated one person to another. When people do not recognize the God-given value of other human beings, they will do anything, even taking their lives. When this happens, too few of us answer the call to come to the aid of another’s pain and distress; particularly outsiders who might be living isolated and comfortable lives; focused on their own needs. Others might ask, “What can one person accomplish against such odds?” You are now giving them an answer to that question! If more people would respond similarly when others in our global society were being threatened, persecuted or afflicted, there would be more peace and less injustice in this world.

We hope that the Obama administration, along with our elected leaders and the media, will pay serious attention to the cause for which you stand. We support your goal of having them formally recognize Birtukan Mideksa as a prisoner of conscience. We also hope that what you are doing—added to the calls of the Ethiopian people over the last several years—will cumulatively finally tip the scale, causing them to thoroughly re-examine how US foreign policy is actually financially supporting an authoritarian regime that is brutally suppressing Birtukan and the freedom movement of the Ethiopian people.

We in the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) have sent an open letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in March 2009, and to President Barack Obama ( in January of this year, asking them to withdraw their support of a regime that locks up their opponents, tramples on the same democratic values that the US is founded on and is known for widespread perpetration of human rights crimes; including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Your sacrifice towards bringing attention to Birtukan, as well as to all of these concerns is of great significance; particularly in light of the troubling and violent pre-election repression where only a miracle would change the outcome from the current EPRDF.

In closing, you may not see many of us there physically with you, but there are many of us there with you in spirit. In this interconnected global society, “None of us are free until all are free.” May your example be an inspiring model for countless others—showing that our humanity should have no boundaries!

Thank you and May God bless you and care for you; multiplying the impact of what you are doing, far beyond what you could have ever conceived!

Sincerely yours,

Executive Leaders
Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia

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