Christophe Smets

Updated: August 27, 2020

Former Photographer / Coordinateur Projets at la boîte à images. He  did the interview for a Belgian NGO called Viva Salud. You can find the whole interview here : vivasalud.be

August 25, 2020

Dear Zara,

Excuse me, it took me some time, a whole week, to write to you after your assassination. See, I was eating ice cream when I found out. In an instant my heart petrified, frozen with fear and sadness.

This was last November on the island of Negros, Philippines, in a small hotel room, safe from sight. You joined us, early in the morning, we had prepared the camera in front of a flat wall, poor blafard light. The price to pay for keeping low and not putting yourself more in danger than you already were. The purpose of our interview was a modest contribution to make your situation known, your fight for respect for human rights, on an island subject to the rules of the far west for certain people you wanted to defend, towards and against everything , with unparalleled determination.

An interview that will only finally be streamed this week.

When you told us your story, I listened carefully to you, with your eyes immersed in yours, marked by the strength that came out of you, by the number of days spent in prison, which you mentioned precisely, like a scar unchangeable deep inside you. By the suffering inflicted on your child who refused to feed themselves to know you in prison. You were able to take her a few days with you there behind bars where you will have stayed for almost two years.

We can make it beautiful things in two years.

I wanted to hug you, to tell you ′′ you’re gonna be fine “. But I didn’t dare, and then it would have been pretentious to believe that this gesture could have been useful to you as much as I did.

We went to drink and eat cake in a beautiful bright pastry from a shopping street. One moment you told us that the lady, meaningless, who had just sat near us, might be a government agent. You were being watched closely.

We left again, I worried and tense, but happy to leave this cursed and uncertain island. You stayed there forever.

Back in Belgium, I wrote you to tell you that your smile was beautiful in the pictures. It was my way of saying thank you and also that I thought you were beautiful.

You answered me ′′ ha ha “, adding that we had to smile even when our hearts are painful in the midst of all human rights violations.

I asked you when you would come to Belgium, and you answered ′′ is that an invitation? ′′……. I said yes. So you said ′′ I hope one day I can visit your country and we can share our stories “.

It was December 10th, International Human Rights Day.

Today your life is no more. Your body is in a white box underground. But your courage and action will remain, you see, wherever the white birds on your Facebook profile picture took your message of peace. Even up to thousands of miles away from Negros, I promise.

You know, I wish I could tell you that every person who read this message will decide to do a little more than a ′′ like ′′ on Facebook, would write a word of outrage to the Philippines embassy for example, but I don’t have that power. I keep dreaming that we will together turn this inaccurate world.

Today I want to mourn your death and what it stands for.

Your words will no longer be written.

Your smile won’t brighten up this world anymore.

The monster turned out your light.

I think of you that we’ve been deprived of life

And to your daughter who doesn’t have a mom anymore.

I miss you sorely.

You were 39, an age not to die.

I hope this simple picture that you looked like and from which it comes from a beautiful light was worthy of you and your courage. I really did my best.

This letter has only one purpose: to give thanks to your action and to those who fight around the world for better justice for men and life.

I wish you love and peace where you are dear Zara.

Christophe

Meme courtesy of FAHRA, Filipino American Human Rights Alliance.