HOLOCAUST Memorial Day is marked on 27th January each year in the UK. I’ve compiled an online service of commemoration for the Open Table Network this month. Why does this matter to our LGBTQIA+ Christian community?
On Holocaust Memorial Day we remember those Jewish people, and millions of members of other groups killed under Nazi persecution, and in the more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.
But it’s more than that – it’s about recognising the early signs that lead to people being marginalised, dehumanised and demonized, to the point that killing them becomes somehow acceptable.
The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 is ‘Be the light in the darkness’.
It encourages us to reflect on the depths humanity can sink to, but also the ways individuals and communities have resisted that darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide.
It asks us to consider:
- different kinds of ‘darkness’: identity-based persecution, misinformation and denial of justice
- different ways of ‘being the light’: resistance, acts of solidarity and rescue, and illuminating mistruths.
Today, increasing denial, division and misinformation mean we must keep watch against hatred and identity-based hostility. Rapid advances in technology, an unstable political climate, and global events beyond our control can leave us feeling helpless and hopeless. In these days we’re seeing the best of humanity but also the much darker side of our world.
Holocaust Memorial Day is an invitation to remember the lives of those who were murdered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. We give thanks for those who have courageously shared their stories. We recommit ourselves to transform the world through love.
For us as LGBTQIA+ Christians, it’s also about solidarity with others who also experience oppression and hate crime, but it’s also about raising awareness of the prejudice against LGBTQIA+ people which is still widespread around the world, still costing lives, which will continue to grow unless we challenge it. It’s also about recognising that religion, in its darkest moments, can play a part in persecuting people, instead of bringing enlightenment.
Then there’s the hidden history of homosexual people in the Nazi Holocaust.
In September 2009, I accompanied ten LGBT young people from Merseyside on a five-day cultural exchange trip to Auschwitz, Krakow and Warsaw working with a group of Polish LGBT young people.
The exchange enabled the group to understand the Holocaust and the fate of many LGBT people at that time, and its impact on European and LGBT social history, as well as challenging past and present issues around hate crime.
The young people took part in making a film called Project Triangle, named after the badges people were made to wear to identify them in the camps. Here’s a short extract [3.5 mins]: You may find some of these images upsetting.
We need to be part of the change we want to see, and call out prejudice and discrimination in all its forms, not just those which affect the groups to which we belong. If we don’t speak in solidarity with others, how can we expect others to speak for us?
Our lights are more powerful when we work together with others. Holocaust Memorial Day help us to remember – for a reason. We all need to do what we can to work for a safer, better, future for everyone. Everyone can step up and use their talents to tackle prejudice, discrimination and intolerance wherever we find them.