Silence speaks volumes for JHR members

Members of Journalists for Human Rights took a 24-hour vow of silence to raise funds and create human rights awareness.
Members of Journalists for Human Rights took a 24-hour vow of silence to raise funds and create human rights awareness.

The sound of a pin dropping was audible at noon in the Upper Ceilidh of the JDUC on Feb. 8, as 11 members of Queen’s Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) began a 24-hour vow of silence.

“Silence is a symbolic gesture that represents everyone in the world who’s been silenced by human rights abuses,” said Andrew Lee, ArtSci ’06 and co-president of JHR, after the event was over.

The event, “Speak Silence,” is part of a national fundraiser that aims to raise money for the independent Liberian newspaper The Vision, the club’s international project.

“We raise money both on and offline to benefit one of Ghana’s papers, which operates out of a Liberian refugee camp,” Lee said.

The eight-page newspaper is distributed bi-monthly and reports on human rights issues, as well as informs Liberians as to what is going on within their country.

“It helps to create human rights awareness,” said Matt Mahoney, ArtSci ’06 and co-president of JHR.

The vow of silence ended at noon on Feb. 9.

“Not being able to speak makes you feel left out of everything going on around you,” Lee said. “It makes you realize all the freedoms you have.”

Participants of “Speak Silence” found the event challenging, but very rewarding, said participant Ahmed Kayssi, Meds ’09.

“It was [AMS] election night and I couldn’t say a thing,” said Kayssi. “I locked myself up in the library and tried not to look people in the eye.”

Kayssi said he felt the event was a great exercise in public humility.

“It was a neat idea for raising awareness,” Kayssi said. “I wanted to see if I could pull it off, and I’d definitely do it again.” In addition to its international project, Mahoney said JHR is currently working on its own publication about human rights issues. The publication will consist of submissions from both students and faculty, and will be distributed across campus this coming March.

“Our goal is to cover human rights from a diversity of perspectives,” he said.

“We hope that this publication will create a template for other chapters at other universities to use.”

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