Earlier today Brazil suffered one of its saddest days in recent history. It started when Wellington Menezes de Oliveira, a 23-year-old man, invaded a public school in the city of Rio de Janeiro. He then took the life of a dozen 12- to 14-year old students. When he was done shooting at others, he killed himself.
The reason of the massacre is unknown, but it is clear that the assassin suffered from some form of physiological disorder. Rio’s police found in the shooter’s home a letter expressing his final wishes and the ways he wanted to be buried. The furniture and electrical appliances of his home were also destroyed.
This tragic event reminds us of similar massacres that have taken stage in the USA, such as VA Tech’s episode from 2005. Just like with past events, the reasons for such bizarre acts are hard to find. Unfortunately, they are becoming more common. We ask ourselves many questions. How could’ve this been avoided? What signs were there to stop this from happening? What could possibly take a young man to resort to such actions? Etc., etc. We all want to know the answers, but at this moment, we must pause and share our thoughts and heartfelt feelings with the victims and their families.
You may not have been aware of it, but this past Wednesday, Aug. 19, was the first World Humanitarian Day. August 19 was designated by the U.N. General Assembly last December as a day each year to honor aid workers around the world, especially those who have given their lives in the line of duty.
The UN website about the World Humanitarian Day noted that in Sri Lanka, 17 staff of the French aid agency Action contre la Faim (ACF) (Action Against Hunger) were killed in August 2006. While the Sri Lankan government has blamed the opposition Tamil Tigers for the killings, a recent report by the Sri Lankan human rights group, University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), provides evidence pointing to the security forces as the killers. And Amnesty International’s report, “Twenty Years of Make-Believe: Sri Lanka’s Commissions of Inquiry, details serious deficiencies of subsequent government investigations into the massacre.
It’s been more than 3 years, and still the killers of the 17 ACF staff have not been brought to justice. One more example of the continuing impunity enjoyed by the Sri Lankan security forces. I hope that by next year’s World Humanitarian Day, I won’t be able to make the same statement.