We must have the courage to speak up for neighbours and strangers, says the Archbishop of Canterbury. Photo: Brian Bukowski / Wikimedia Commons
In his video message to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury urged us to have the courage to speak out on behalf of the neighbour and on behalf of the stranger as part of this year’s theme: Speak Up, Speak Out.
“Holocaust Memorial Day brings back to our minds the appalling consequences of a situation where people don’t speak for the neighbour and don’t speak for the stranger; where people are only concerned about their own security, their own comfort zones,” he said.
Continuing, he said, “In our commemoration this year we are encouraged to challenge ourselves: who do we speak for? Are we willing to speak for the neighbour and for the stranger, for people like us and also people who are not like us? Are we willing to take risks alongside one another?”
Archbishop Williams describes how, during a recent visit to Congo, he spoke with people who had survived living. “I heard there something of the experience of people who have lived through genocide of another kind-people who didn’t know and couldn’t rely on the fact that there were others to speak for them. And yet there signs of hope, and even the slightest difference in the middle of such a catastrophic situation is of the greatest importance-a sign of grace, a sign of God.”
In commemorating the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), the U.K.’s oldest national Jewish/Christian interfaith organization, Dr. Williams refers to one of tCCJ’ founders, Archbishop William Temple, who had, he said, “come to the conclusion that he had to learn to speak for a stranger.”
In 1943, Archbishop Temple argued in the House of Lords that the West should combat the atrocities perpetrated against Jews in Nazi Germany and he also argued that Jews should be given sanctuary as refugees in the U.K.
Looking ahead to the witness that will be taken forward into the next generation, Archbishop Williams expressed his hope that the “several decades of intense friendship and relationship building” shown by CCJ will continue to develop.
“Our words may not be very loud, they may not instantly change everything, but they will change something: they will change us, they will change at least one neighbor-they will make some strangers into neighbours. And that is profoundly and eternally worth doing,” he said.
Holocaust Memorial Day was created on 27 January 2000, when representatives from 44 governments from around the world met in Stockholm to discuss Holocaust education, remembrance and research. At the end of this meeting, all attendees signed a declaration committing to preserving the memory of those murdered in the Holocaust, under Nazi persecution and in subsequent genocides.