Holocaust Memorial Day is marked on the 27th January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi Death Camps. It is a chance to pause and reflect and remember: to remember the millions of people who have been murdered or whose lives have been irrevocably changed by the holocaust and by subsequent and ongoing genocides.
It is a time to look back, to create a safe space to grieve for lives damaged and lost: but it is also a time to look forward: to a time when we can truly say "never again". The value of our history is to be found in the lessons we can learn for our future
Birmingham commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day with an event at the Town Hall on Sunday 22nd February. Past and present suffering were powerfully evoked amidst a reminder that it is all of us, and each of us, who hold the responsibility to ensure that "never again" becomes a reality.
One speaker, who had been a child refugee welcomed to Britain during the Second World War spoke of visiting the Calais Jungle, connecting it to his own experience. This matters to me, he said, because I too was a refugee. He told the story of how his mother, who should have been able to join him in the UK in 1940, was prevented from doing so by bureaucratic delay … until it was too late: another life lost. He mourned for how little seems to have changed, how little has been learned. Bureaucratic delays still keep people away from our shores. I wonder if anyone is counting how many deaths have their names in piles of paper on a home office desk.
One of our own Sudanese students dared to stand up in front of a crowded banqueting hall to tell his own, more recent, experience of surviving genocide and escaping Darfur. It was a story of destruction and pain and separation and suffering. He demonstrated overwhelming courage to share so articulately the story of things which no-one should ever have to experience. It was a story which was hard to speak but which he realised needed to be heard. It was a story that included the words "It is not just me. Everyone from Sudan, they have terrible stories." He wants the world to know, because he wants the world to help. How we wish we knew better how we could.
There is much to weep over: in our history, and in our present. But running throughout the event there was also a thread of hope: the indomitable human spirit which, while clearly capable of great cruelty is also capable of great acts of humanity, loyalty and love. It was, as an Auschwitz Survivor who shared their experiences at the event said: "Love and life itself which allowed me to go.”
We all play a part in creating the future: we must decide what we want that future to look like. Genocide never “just happens”: the possibility of it is spawned from a language of exclusion and hatred and fear; it creeps up, fed by policies and practices designed to sow division and distrust; fed by our reluctance to rock the boat and the complacency of our comfortable life.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems of our world: but to do nothing is not a solution. To stand by and watch the suffering of others, or to turn the other way so we don't have to watch is not a solution. We have to begin somewhere, but most of all we have to begin. Each of us, all of us. In our own small ways, we can choose gestures of trust instead of fear, of welcome instead of exclusion, of love instead of hate.
Here we will begin by saying to those who come to our shores seeking the freedom and safety they so desperately need, “you are welcome here” We will aspire be symbols of that "love and life itself" which allows hope to go on.
Agnes Tanoh is a regular attender at Sr. Margaret’s BSOL (Bible for Speakers of Other Languages) class. The class have been studying the Lord’s Prayer, and were asked to write their own versions of it for homework.
A word to my God.
Why can’t I overcome?
These are the questions I ask myself daily.
Even though times are hard,
In this difficult situation,
I have taken the decision to have confidence in You.
You are the same today and tomorrow,
You are faithful for you have never let me fall.
This is why I have never doubted You
You provide for my needs according to Your generosity.
You are my support, my refuge and my stronghold
Apart from You, I have no one else to call on
Even if everything is hard, I have decided to believe in Your word.
YawheJire, you will provide.
Glory to You for all eternity. Amen
by Agnes Tanoh
After a very successful summer school in August 2014, we can now start to see the fruits of our Asylum Seekers’ labours.
Stephanie Neville ran a Poetry workshop and below is one group’s poem. Well done Steph.
Poetry Group at St Chad's Sanctuary
The Magic Box
(Inspired by Kit Wright’s Magic Box)
By Murad, Hamid, Nasradin, Adel and Fadi
I will put in the box
The fresh sea air blowing across the beach
The joyful sounds of splashing and laughter
The taste of salty sea water on the tip of my tongue
I will put in the box
My first innocent idea when I wake up in the morning sunlight
The glorious adventure of a wonderful childhood
The happy memory of the days of my past where there were no cloudy skies
I will put in the box
The journey to discover a world I have never seen before
The sound of new languages when I travel the world
A carnival atmosphere where everyone understands the language of dancing and music
I will put in the box
My first kiss, my first sadness, my first forgiveness, my first goodbye
A rainbow of emotions over which I fly with bird-like wings
A celebration of the memory of the first day of a new life
My box is fashioned from dreams becoming a new reality,
with smiles on the lid and laughter in the corners.
Its hinges are the innocent kisses of children.
I shall surf in my box
On the great high-rolling breakers of the wild Atlantic
Then wash ashore on a yellow beach
The colour of the sun.
We had another successful Summer school this year. We had a variety of activities, gardening, Let’s go..to Cannon Hill Park, singing, Fun English, photography, a Garden Party and a trip to the Black Country Museum! For more photos, please see the photo sets in Event Pictures, in our media section.
Thanks to Carol Meredith for her painting that we have used on the cover of our latest brochure. Thanks Carol, it looks fab! What does everyone think?
We recently had a lovely hour with some of the teachers and pupils from Christ the King Roman Catholic Primary School. They had several collections for hygiene items for the Asylum seekers visiting us at St Chad’s Sanctuary.
It was lovely to chat with you all. Thank you all very much for your support and efforts.