International Day of the Disappeared

THE International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) marked the International Day of the Disappeared in an exhibition held at Blackburn’s Open pop-up arts venue from Saturday August 30 for two days.

Members of the British Red Cross’ North West branch collaborated with refugees, members of the local community and archivists in Geneva in order to put on the display.

The aim of the two-day event was to raise awareness of the society’s humanitarian work in war-zones, places of political unrest and in our own communities.

Featured in the exhibition were photographs taken in conflict zones worldwide. They told stories of those affected by forced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture or detention. Other displays included works of poetry and art, case stories, posters and messages.

Intern Alex Walsh said: “This event is to promote the work and efforts of the Red Cross and show the outcomes of what they do.”

“Displays included… case stories, posters and messages”

The global organisation provides a tracing service which enables those who have lost contact with close relatives to try to trace their loved ones.

Between 1986 and 2006, it is estimated that more than 75,000 people were abducted in northern Uganda. Whilst the Red Cross have helped many families to be reunited, in 2013 the whereabouts of several thousand victims still remained unknown.

Displays on the day demonstrated both sides of the story, exploring the experiences of victims and their families. The aim was to recognise the suffering of people all over the world as a result of displacement.

Anna Letitzia, a co-ordinator for Red Cross Liverpool said: “I hope that people who have lost loved ones in conflict can rely on the British Red Cross. We do not have to forget the missing or their family members.The Red Cross gives solidarity to this hidden tragedy.”

Salem, a Syrian refugee and Red Cross volunteer explained how his experiences and the help he received from the organisation have given him a fresh start.

“The Red Cross helped Salem to find somewhere to live”

He fled the conflict in Syria, travelling across Europe to England where he sought refuge. He had to leave his loved ones behind in the pursuit of safety.

The Red Cross helped Salem to find somewhere to live, to buy clothes and find comfort.

Some of the pieces of art from the exhibition were created by Wonder, a factory worker and refugee. He experienced first-hand the terror of living in a war torn country and used these memories to inspire his work. The intricately woven pictures use the symbols of question marks, faces and broken hearts.

The message of Wonder’s work is to show that if the faces on the work turned around to speak to each other, the broken hearts could come together and the bloodshed from the hearts would end.

What is evident from reading the stories of the families who have been reunited by this amazing organisation, or looking at photographs of the broken families that still live in hope, is that the Red Cross’ work helps to transform the lives of so many people on a daily basis.

More information about The International Day of the Disappeared and the Red Cross is available at www.redcross.org.uk

*Opinions expressed by the author and interviewees in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Red Cross itself and are entirely independent from the organisation.
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