Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Today is Yom HaShoah, the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day. The date is chosen as the closest date (in the Jewish calendar) to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Last evening a group of us traveled to the Park School of Baltimore to hear from an exile from the continuing genocide in the Sudan and a survivor of the Holocaust. The event was organized by the Park Darfur Group, an organization of students in grades 6-8. Led by student founder Sophie Neiman, the event was intended to promote awareness of the continuing genocide in Darfur, the southwestern region of The Sudan in Africa.
Daowd Salih opened the evening and spoke of how the fragile balance of faith and culture have been upset for the last twenty years in the Darfur region by those focused solely on obtaining power, most significantly through the systematic killing, torture and dislocation of innocents. He stressed the importance of taking a stand for those that are not able to speak for themselves, and how we as individuals could help by encouraging our government to continue to be actively involved in efforts to put an end to this human tragedy.
Nick Attias followed and spoke of his experiences as a "hidden child" - one of thousands of Holocaust-era Jewish children who were hidden, protected and moved around (often at great risk) by families and individuals in Europe simply because it was the right thing to do. He strongly advised us that he was not a hero - that the true heroes were those who risked their own safety to protect strangers. He encouraged us to practice tolerance, develop understanding and educate ourselves to better awareness, and that ignorance was the greatest weapon of tyrants.
U.S. Senator Ben Cardin was a surprise guest, and he spoke passionately of his work with the U.S. Helsinki Commission, dedicated to protecting the fundamental rights of people throughout the world, particularly minority populations. While he felt we as a nation have turned a corner in our international relations he also admitted there was much for us left to do.
There was a lot of discussion about what we can do as individuals to help alleviate the problems in Darfur and other troubled areas of the world. Here are some Internet links to explore that may be useful...
Also, if you're interested in learning more about "hidden children" of the Holocaust, I would recommend the following...
"Into the Arms of Strangers" (film and book)
"The Righteous: The Unsung Heroes of the Holocaust" (book)
"A Wolf in the Attic : The Legacy of a Hidden Child of the Holocaust" (book)
"Hidden Children of the Holocaust : Belgian Nuns and their Daring Rescue of Young Jews from the Nazis" (book)
Yom HaShoah is a day to remember ALL senseless killing - whether it be in the distant history of the 20th century, the distant lands of Africa, or the not-so-distant small towns of Maryland. We have a moral imperative to continue to do as Jesus did, to give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcoming to the stranger, clothing to the naked, comfort to the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:31-46).
Prayers and blessings always!