27 Holocaust Memorial Day
Two days ago we were marking Burns Night. Behind some of his greatest poems and songs we see the inspiration of the European (and Scottish) Enlightenment, and Revolutionary thinking in in America and France: The Declaration of the Rights of Man, Liberte Egalite Fraternity etc.
Then let us pray that come it may
(As come it will for a’ that)
That Sense and Worth o’er a’ the earth
Shall bear the gree an’ a’ that!
For a’ that, an’ a’ that,
It’s coming yet for a’ that,
That man to man the world o’er
Shall brithers be for a’ that.
However it is also worth remembering that amid the intellectual and political turmoil of Burns’ adult years the Transatlantic slave trade was still in place, and many economies depended upon slavery. The hope then, and among many people for the next 150 years was that humanity would put away all the mediaeval superstition about human sinfulness and strive for ever greater knowledge and civilisation.
Two days after Burns Night we mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau and remember those who perished under the Nazi extermination policies, those who continued to carry mental or physical scars for many years, the motivations that led up to the Holocaust, its objective, the choices faced by those who did not agree with it but did not know how to oppose it. We reflect too on all other attempts to eradicate people of different ethnicities, political views, sexualities etc simply because they are ‘different’.
It is right to remember what happened in the 1930s and 40s, what happened in Darfur, Rwanda and Cambodia. But we need to go beyond remembering the past and look at our contemporary country and world. How readily is ‘difference’ accepted or embraced today? What are our prejudices and dislikes? Why do we have them? Is there anything we have to address in our attitudes?
Lord, we are all different from each other, and you love us for who we are. Help us to love each other. Help us to confront our own prejudices and dislikes. As we remember those who suffered and died in the Holocaust and all campaigns against minority groups, we pray those situations in our world today where people are in much the same position as those who suffered in the 1930s and 40s.