January 27th is internationally recognised as Holocaust Memorial Day – and it is, for myself as well as so many others, a day of deep reflection, of remembering those loved and lost, and of the many cruelties humanity have carried out against others for simply being ‘other’.
Six million Jewish people – men, women, children – were erased, snuffed out by the Nazi party, generations of hatred and xenophobia leading to mass murders and atrocities.
This is a piece of world history which we all remember – there are still living survivors and their families who hold dear the memories of those they lost, and who vividly recall the horrors of the camps, the cruelties of their captors, the fear that they lived in. Each November we wear poppies, we wave our flags, and we swear by “Lest we forget” – but across the UK, and the wider world, anti-Semitism is rife, and is still a leading topic in the media.
Year on year the reports of antisemitic views and behaviours are rising, and persecution and segregation are again sliding into ‘the norm’ as right-wing world leaders preach intolerance.
The impact on people – on those who didn’t forget, on those being pushed aside, on those once again living in fear – is immeasurable, and at a time when the world is facing uncertainty and fear we need to remember to come together, to love and support others, and to behave with kindness and compassion, rather than pulling into tribes which alienate and threaten anyone different to ourselves.
With the increase of technology and social media we are more able than ever before to find like minded people to communicate with – but still we see people leaning towards bubbles of those who share their views, and feeding intolerance in those bubbles. This has to stop, and we have to consciously work to explore other views, other cultures, other experiences to build a healthy, full picture of people’s experiences which we can use to shape our own.
The world is a rich tapestry of different cultures, with varied and fascinating histories, and humans are curious creatures. Often what we think of as fear – fear of anything different to our own lived experience – is actually curiosity, and rather than rejecting it we should encourage one another to explore it safely. To reach out to people, to be kind and tolerant, curious and keen.
Kindness is the thing which makes us most human. Sharing, caring and supporting others, particularly when we have little to give ourselves, creates community and compassion – and those are the traits which can save us from sliding further into segregation and pain.
Nobody could have believed, as the atrocities of the Holocaust were first realised, and the truths about the murder and torture of millions of people, people who had committed no crimes, were released, that antisemitism would still be an issue nearly one hundred years later.
We learned so many lessons in the wake of the world wars – and yet still we see people being persecuted.
Today, take time to reflect. To truly assess your own treatment of others, and the behaviour of those around you. Of those casual ‘jokes’ which build a society rife with unkindness, segregation and separatism.
Think what you can do to challenge those moments, and how you can influence the world around you with kindness, compassion and love.
If you have faced persecution, have been mistreated because of your religion, your culture, your race or your sexual preference or gender identity, please don’t carry the burden of that hurt alone.
Reach out to your friends and loved ones, build a community around yourself of love and protection – and if you would like more support, contact me via this website, on Facebook, via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or call or WhatsApp 07749 499783 to arrange counselling to work through the issues you’ve faced, and step into a happier, lighter future.