By Roy Mabasa
The brutal death of overseas Filipino worker Henry Acorda in Bratislava has not only generated sympathy from all walks of life in Slovakia but also helped galvanized a widespread call to end violence, intolerance, xenophobia and racism in that central European country.
Over the past several days, various groups, including the influential American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Slovakia, have expressed their sympathy and condolences to the family of Filipino worker Henry Acorda in the aftermath of his brutal beating on May 26 in Bratislava.
In the capital city of Bratislava, more than 1,000 people marched into the streets over the weekend to pay tribute to Acorda, who succumbed to injuries several days after he was attacked by a local thug when he tried to defend his female companions from being harassed.
In a statement posted on its website, the AmCham in Slovakia and its Business Service Centers Forum (BSCF) expressed their condolences to the family of Acorda, even as they vowed to bring their “perspective” to appropriate public officials “to help ensure that Slovakia remains a welcoming place for all to do business.”
“AmCham Slovakia and BSCF affiliated companies, employing more than 32,000 workers in the third largest sector of Slovak economy, including a number of foreign experts, condemn all forms of violence in our community, regardless of the motivation, including intolerance, xenophobia and racism. Similar expressions have no place in any civilized society,” they said.
Acorda worked as an analyst of the IBM International Service Center in Bratislava, a member of the BSCF.
In the commemoration gathering staged on Friday, marchers walked from the capital city center up to the end of Obchodná Street where the beating of Acorda took place.
Reports from Bratislava showed the weekend gathering started with the playing of a violin followed by the reading of a letter from the family of Acorda.
“This tragedy is devastating not only for us, his family, and his friends, but all of humanity,” the Acordas wrote in the letter.
The family narrated in the letter that Acorda came to Slovakia a year ago, “ready to fulfill his dreams and experience life in a foreign country.”
“Henry John Acorda did not deserve this tragedy,” his family continued. “We will never forget this noble and heroic act of kindness and respect, especially for women. He was a hero in our hearts.”
The Acorda family also thanked both the Slovak and Filipino government for their “collaborative efforts” in pursuing justice for Henry.
The marchers likewise expressed their concern over the current state of the society and called for a “just investigation” of Acorda’s death.
During the past week, similar activities were replicated elsewhere in Slovakia, particularly in Banská Bystrica, about 165 kilometers northeast of Bratislava, where around 100 people organized the “Not in Our City” campaign and held a one-minute silence and lit candles to commemorate Acorda’s courage.
The Philippine Embassy in Prague said several Czech and Slovak citizens also gathered at the Wenceslaus Square in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, last week in memory of Acorda.
Charge d’ affaires Jed Dayang said the Filipino Catholic community likewise offered a mass for Acorda on Sunday at the St. Thomas Church, in the Czech center.
The death of Acorda has spurred condemnation from top Slovakian leaders, vowing to bring justice to the victim and punish the perpetrator, Hiraj Hossu, 28, who is now in government custody.
Even Slovakian local officials led by Bratislava Mayor Ivo Nesrovnal and Old Town Mayor Radoslav Stevcik lent their voices in condemning the attack against the Filipino worker, with the latter demanding stronger police presence in the capital.
The Slovakian government has offered to repatriate the remains of Acorda, which is expected to arrive in Manila this week.