On the 27th of January, the UK remembers the Holocaust. It remembers the millions of Jews, Roma Gypsies, homosexuals and disabled individuals killed by the Nazi regime and the survivors who lived on after these horrors. It remembers a tragedy of civilisation that we vowed to never let happen again.
Representatives of STAND UK came to pay their respects and remember these events, and those that have happened since, at the UK Holocaust Memorial Day service in London. At the event, survivors of the holocaust and subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur shared their stories with those in attendance. These were inspiring, moving tales of courage in the face of the most extreme adversity that made you think, as the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust asked you to, ‘how can life go on?’
All of these stories had a profound effect on me but one sentence, from Holocaust Survivor Lily Ebert, stood out as the most pertinent of the service: “the world has not changed.” Time and time again, we as a society have witnessed genocide and promised ‘never again’. But each time we have failed to fulfil this promise.
At this very moment, mass atrocities are being committed in Burma against the Rohingya people, in South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and so many more places. Huge numbers of civilians in these conflicts are being abused, tortured, raped and killed but we are not powerless to stand by and let this be. There is much that we can do. As a country, we can take in refugees escaping these conflicts and give them a safe environment to live in. We can help stop these conflicts in their tracks by encouraging the responsible use of power in the UN Security council and contributing more resources to UN peacekeeping operations. We can help prevent these conflicts before they break out by calling for greater investment in peacebuilding education in schools and communities where ethnic tensions run high.
But as well as helping to prevent mass atrocities and genocide internationally, we must also work to stop hatred in our own communities. In this current climate of fear, hatred has found a home in the UK. Muslims, the LGBT community, refugees, immigrants, People of Colour, Jews and other minority groups have all experienced increasing amounts of discrimination with the number of reported hate crimes increasing by 19% in 2016, compared to the previous year. Even more worryingly, this appears to be part of a broader growth in hate crime.
Again, we are not powerless to stand by and let this happen. Peacebuilding education that teaches against discrimination, the most valuable tool in the fight against hate, must be taught in schools. Community cohesion must be encouraged to promote cross cultural understanding and most importantly, hate must be challenged wherever we see it.
Remembering the holocaust is certainly a valuable act in itself. It gives dignity to those that lost their lives and suffered under the Nazi regime and in subsequent genocides. But if we are to really to respect their memory and the lessons of those that survived, we must do more than reflect. We must work to stop hate and prevent these atrocities from happening again so that one day we may promise ‘never again’ and the world will mean it.
If you would like to get involved in STAND UK’s work to one day make this a reality, then please contact us to find out ways to get involved.