Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Holocaust Memorial Day 2015

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. It is also the 70th anniversary of the day the Red Army began to liberate the notorious concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. What happened in that place and other places in Nazi-occupied Europe was not the first genocide the world has known and was not the last. In many horrifying ways it is a present reality for some minority groups in today's world. The challenges for all of us are:

  • to face up to the truth about the dreadful capability of humankind to think, say and do evil;
  • to commit our energies to think, say and do the sort of good that could make a reality of the slogan 'never again'.


Gregory Stanton, President of Genocide Watch identified 8 stages in the process that leads to genocide. In 2013 he updated this to 10. He says that:
"Genocide is a process that develops in ten stages that are predictable but not inexorable. At each stage, preventive measures can stop it. The process is not linear. Stages may occur simultaneously. Logically, later stages must be preceded by earlier stages. But all stages continue to operate throughout the process."
The stages he identifies are:

  1. Classification
  2. symbolization
  3. Discrimination
  4. Dehumanization
  5. Organization
  6. Polarization
  7. Preparation
  8. Persecution
  9. Extermination
  10. Denial
For more details of these see The Ten Stages of Genocide
He believes that the best antidote to genocide is
"...education and the development of social and cultural tolerance for diversity. "
I agree that those things are important, but I think the will to achieve those things must arise from something deeper within each of us. Gregory Stanton writes:

"The movement that will end genocide in this century must rise from each of us who have the courage to challenge discrimination, hatred, and tyranny.  We must never let the wreckage of our barbaric past keep us from envisioning a peaceful future when law and democratic freedom will rule the earth."

Fine words - but aren't we all to some extent prisoners of our past, our particular cultural prejudices and our selfishness that will always want to put my interests or those of my 'tribal' group before the interests of those who are different from me or who I fear? How can that be changed? It would take a miracle wouldn't it? A divine intervention in human hearts that leads to the political will to really do what Jesus taught:
  • love your neighbour
  • and love your enemies
That would take at least someone as loving as Jesus wouldn't it?

A PRAYER FOR HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL DAY

God who knows us,
who never forgets us,
we thank you that,
when you 'remember' us,
you gaze on us in a way
that makes new worlds possible.
Help us to remember the horrors
others faced and face.
Help us to remember the people
we'd rather forget.
Help us to remember
the dark corners of our own lives,
for you transfigure everything,
bringing light and life.




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