Aloha from Project Expedite Justice (PEJ)! PEJ is based right here in Hawai’i but our mission is global. We work on the world’s worst problems- genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. PEJ’s founder, Cynthia Tai, is from Hawaii and brought her passion for justice to the International Criminal Court in The Hague and back to Hawai’i nei. We, at PEJ, wholeheartedly believe in the Spirit of CAN.
By Cynthia Tai June 5, 2019
PEJ’s work includes capacity building for war torn populations across Africa and assisting trafficking survivors in Asia. Our “give” is our legal skills and our passion for fairness and access to justice. PEJ uses all available legal options to seek justice in national, regional or international fora. In other words, we use our CAN. and then some, to find justice for populations that need it most!
As the founder of PEJ, I am frequently asked, “why do you care about people who live so far away?” Understandably, mass atrocities are a hard thing to wrap your head around. Oftentimes, our own feelings of helplessness are our worst enemies. My answer is that I don’t want to live in a world where conflict and violence are the new norm- where mothers, fathers, sons and daughters are raped, tortured and usually killed in front of their loved ones. The words “no can” do not exist in my vocabulary. I CAN. do something and PEJ is doing it! What I can’t do, is do nothing or just “talk about it”.
When I reflect, I think the question, and the answer to the question, requires that we look deeply at our lives. We are blessed to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, where it is safe and possible to meet our basic needs and where our human rights are respected. What then is our responsibility to others who happen to be born where there is hunger, thirst, bloodshed and terror? My deepest conviction is that we have both a responsibility to remember and a responsibility to protect. Mass atrocities are not inevitable or unstoppable unless we choose to let it happen. We CAN. make an impact, but we must have the CAN. attitude.
For me, I’ve had the great privilege of spending time with people in many different countries, usually in conflict or post-conflict zones, who have risked their lives to hide others or stand up when they knew something was wrong, and at great price. I wanted to understand why they cared, and what was special about them that caused them to do extraordinary things. Why them, and more importantly, why not everyone?
The common thread in each of their answers, was “but what else could I do”. For each of them, they did not view themselves as heroes- to them, there were simply no other options. In their view, they could not have done otherwise. Each of these people believed they could affect change. In other words, CAN. was the only option for them.
One Rwandan friend, who survived the 1994 genocide and lost most of her family, left me with an interesting calculation. Based on what took place, she calculates that “95 percent of people can pick up a machete and kill strangers and friends alike for 90 days. This we know. Three percent, they don’t want to kill, they will run away.”
But two percent risk their lives to help others, or stand up when they know something is wrong. To me, that is promising. This is the CAN. attitude.
As Elie Wiesel wrote of the Holocaust, “The victims perished not only because of the killers, but also because of the apathy of the bystanders. What astonished us after the torment, after the tempest, was not that so many killers killed so many victims, but that so few cared about us at all.”
For me, I choose to be in the two percent and that is what PEJ is about. For each of us, the responsibility and the choice have been, and always will be, ours. I will choose CAN. over genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes every day.
This year, PEJ partnered with the spirit of CAN. to spread the word. As we travel around the world helping those most in need, we’ll be shouting out the CAN. message. Please join PEJ and support the spirit of CAN. Check us out at www.projectexpeditejustice.org and www.spiritofcan.com. Lean forward, protect those in your line of vision and do something extraordinary every day. You CAN. be part of the two percent.
From the CAN. team:
Spirit of CAN. will continue to support their work and attempt to level up to this extraordinary level of human resilience and kindness!
How you CAN. help: