Speaking out

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller

At the time of writing we are in the middle of Holocaust Memorial (or Remembrance) Day, Yom HaShoah. According to the Jewish Calendar, the day began at sunset yesterday and continues until sunset tonight. In the United Kingdom we commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th each year, on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. However, many other countries, including Israel and the United States, remember the Holocaust on 27 Nissan, the first month of the Jewish year, which this year falls during the 65th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

I must be honest and admit that I wasn’t aware of this until I was listening to this morning’s Pause for Thought on Terry Wogan‘s Radio Two show. Listening to it reminded me of the above quotation.

In the sixty-plus years since the liberation of the concentration camps at the end of the Second World War there have been numerous other incidences of genocide and ethnic cleansing, and countless people have had been ignored or silenced, or have never been given the opportunity to have their voices heard.

Today is a good day to remember not just the Holocaust, but those people who can’t speak out or who aren’t listened to, who don’t have a vote, who don’t have a say in what happens to them, who are ignored, undefended, forgotten, who disappear because individual people or entire governments look the other way. I think it’s also an appropriate day for those of us who have the opportunity to make our voices heard to think about whether we do this as often as we could (I know I don’t), and, more importantly, about the ways in which we can speak out about injustice now and in the future.



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