Holocaust Memorial Day presents us all with an opportunity. It is a day on which the circle of remembrance and reflection is extended beyond the Jewish community (for whom these memories are ever present and who have their own remembrance day, Yom HaShoah) to encompass wider society. It is reported on our news channels, it trends on twitter and it is marked in areas with little or no Jewish presence. We, as a whole society, take responsibility for remembering the Holocaust as well as other genocides.
But this year, Holocaust Memorial Day asks more of us. Its theme for this year is “Don’t Stand By”, quoting from a verse in Leviticus “do not stand by while your neighbour’s blood is shed”. It recalls that the horrors of the holocaust could happen because “Whilst some actively supported or facilitated state policies of persecution, the vast majority stood by silently – at best, afraid to speak out; at worst, indifferent. Bystanders enabled the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and subsequent genocides”*.
This year we must commit not to repeat this error. As Christians and other minorities are subject to ever greater persecution in Iraq and Syria and elsewhere that ISIS has taken hold, CCJ’s If Not Now When initiative worked to highlight this in the Jewish community and beyond and ensure that we do not stand by as these things occur. Yet there is more to be done, and as this initiative continues and others develop, we must work not to stand by from the current refugee crisis dominating Europe, the vehement Islamophobia and antisemitism becoming common in social and political discourse and from seeking a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As Christians and Jews, together with the wider community, we must work to learn from the past, keep these memories alive and ensure that we are not passive bystanders to the crimes of today or the future.