Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Gathering to recall the 'disappeared'

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On the heels of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission meeting, another gathering in Winnipeg on Sunday at 6 p.m. will pay tribute to thousands whose governments made them disappear and never said sorry.

"It's painful," said Ali Saeed, an Ethiopian refugee who is organizing the Night of the Disappeared at the West End Cultural Centre.

"Healing will take a long time," said Saeed, a Manitoba Human Rights Commission award winner, restaurateur and inner-city convenience store owner.

To help that healing, he's bringing together Ethiopians, newcomers from around the world and aboriginal people to host a night of reflection, Ethiopian cuisine and entertainment.

"Without healing, the pain will continue, and the parents will pass it on to the next generation," Saeed said. "For the next generation, there will be revenge."

Saeed, who was held as a political prisoner in Somalia, lost friends when the Ethiopian government cracked down on voices of dissent. Critics were killed or "disappeared" -- like so many others around the world who've called for human rights and social justice, said Saeed.

Winnipeggers from places like Burma, the Philippines, China, Sierra Leone and Congo will be at the fundraiser for Amnesty International. "We are the victims and these are my friends," he said.

A national group representing murdered or missing aboriginal women is on the event guest list. There will be performances by traditional drummers and dancers of African and Aboriginal heritage.

"The beauty of Canada is it's a country of many colours," said Saeed. People have the right to be who they are and express their ideas.

People are still disappearing in Ethiopia and elsewhere and can't be forgotten, Saeed said. Sharing the stories of those who've been killed or disappeared is important, but so is sharing a meal with a side dish of humour.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 19, 2010 A10

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