Monday, April 2, 2007

Abusing the Memory of the Holocaust

The recent reports of the Holocaust Denial symposium in Teheran point to a dangerous trend that is poisoning our world, a kind of disease that, once seen as on the wane, has grown like a malignant tumor in recent decades here in America and all over the world, The disease of religious and racial hatred is a epidemic that reached a zenith in the unspeakable atrocity of the Shoah and the efforts of the Nazi regime in Germany to annihilate an entire people while most of Europe looked away or even joined in the slaughter, is still alive and rearing its ugly head in the Holocaust denial movement. The world has reaped the harvest of such denial in the stubborn pervasiveness of neo-Nazi and fascist movements in former eastern bloc countries, in the rise of anti-semitism both in Europe and the Muslim world and also in genocides and ethnic cleansing from Bosnia, to parts of India to Rwanda and the Sudan.

To deny either the complicity of one's religion or culture in sowing the seeds of the Holocaust, to worse, to deny that the most despicable acts in human history happened at all is to deprive humanity of the means to fashion something redemptive from the ashes of this ultimate example of human depravity. To ignore the danger of this kind of denial is to once again turn our heads away from the suffering of our fellow human beings and to fail to learn the lessons of the Shoah that evil lives, not just "out there" in the hearts and beliefs of others, but in every human heart.

Those of us who profess the Christian faith are called especially to look fearlessly at ourselves and to recognize that the Holocaust was perpetrated in a nation whose majority professed our faith, by men and women who claimed to be Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians, (as were the perpetrators of the "ethnic cleansing campaigns in Bosnia Herzegovina and Rwanda), and to take a leadership role in naming this evil, as well as in working for justice for Jewish, Muslim and for any and all people persecuted and oppressed on the basis of their faith. None of us can allow the kind of outrageous exploitation of this unparalleled human tragedy that Teheran's recent denial conference represents to go unanswered.