Holocaust Memorial Day: Ever Heard of the Slavery Memorial Day?

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As the world marks the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust, we condemn in totality the inhuman traumatization, segregation, disintegration and immeasurable degree of brutality against innocent Jews. The history of humanity cannot be told without the graphic look at the agonizing treatment of the Jews because the history of the Jews is embedded in our everyday reality and consciousness.

In London, many political juggernauts, religious leaders, diplomats and other high level dignitaries joined holocaust survivors at a national commemoration in central London to celebrate this year`s Holocaust Day. With 70 candles lit, one for each year since the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland, the emotional ceremony is not only a reminder of the atrocities against the Jews. It is equally a strong demonstration of the world`s support for these oppressed people while they go through the emotional trauma of the holocaust. Across the UK, more than 2,400 events had been planned to commemorate the memorable event. Other parts of the world were not left behind as they marked the anniversary of this historic day.

However, this year`s 70th anniversary of the Holocaust is not only symbolic; it was celebrated with the same blood the holocaust anniversary is meant to prevent. The recent terrorist attack in Paris attacks ““ the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the senseless hostage and cold blooded murder at kosher grocery – have not only contributed in creating a sombre celebration of the 2015 holocaust anniversary, it has demonstrated clearly, how far we are in achieving global tolerance and peaceful co-existence.

Persecution of Jews, which has occurred in many parts of the world, especially in Europe and the Middle East in different dimension ““ religious, political, economic etc. – is as old as the Jewish history. Many years, Christians had used the historical, biblical story to back their belief that Jews are collectively responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. For 1900 years of Christian-Jewish history, many Jews have been persecuted based on the charge of Deicide (“god-killing”). The persecution reached its apex during the High Middle Ages in Europe, especially during the crusades which witnessed blood libels, expulsions, forced conversions and massacres of the Jews. The First Crusade (1096) was the manifestation of the destruction and killing of the Jewish community. Nor were the Jews in France exempted from merciless annihilation during the Second Crusade (1147). The Shepherds’ Crusades of 1251 and 1320 saw yet another expulsion and banishment of Jews across Europe, with many of them fleeing to Poland. The devastating Black Death epidemics which occurred in Europe in the mid-14th century, was attributed to the Jews, who were accused of well poisoning. A good “reason“ to hold the scapegoats responsible for the ills of the society, as well as provide justifications and “reality“ for the massacre of the innocents. The rise of Islam was the epitome of conflict between Muslims and Jews, which started after Prophet Muhammad expelled the Ancient Jewish tribes of Medina, following their refusal to pay allegiance to Prophet Muhammad. The Yemen, Baghdad, Damascus, Granada massacre of the Jews are all inexcusable and indeed inescapable part of the Jewish history. The policies of the Nazi Germany, which saw the killing of approximately 6,000,000 Jews during the Holocaust from 1941 to 1945 cannot be swept under the carpet.

Human history is a product of scapegoatism. Our everyday reality of the world explains the order of the day or why things are the way they are. Without “realities“ of the world, there is no history. Therefore, when we are faced with economic crush, there must be a reason for the economic strangulation. In most cases in our modern time, accusing fingers point at, minorities (e.g. Foreigners, as the case may be, in the Western countries“¦.. Wondering whether South Africa is part of the Western countries! ). Jews have equally not escaped from the myopic scapegoat – labelling. You won`t be wondering therefore, why it was more or less easy for Hitler to attribute the great economic recession of his time to the Jews – a justification for the brutal murder of this group. Helpless children were not spared. Those who tried to help these innocent Jews or prevent atrocities against them were labelled traitors and harshly punished accordingly. It was a curse to be born a Jew. This is an act any right – thinking person must forcefully condemn in totality and diligently prevent from repeating. Enough bloodshed!. Thank goodness, the world has displayed a higher sense and sensibility than it did many years ago. We recognize the evil perpetrated against the Jews. We mourn with the survivors. We share their sadness. Their sorrow is ours.

Like the Jews, blacks are victims of historical trauma caused by the dark slave history. For the sake of clarity, blacks are not the only unfortunate victims of slavery because slavery was (and is) practised in different parts of the world. Although slavery existed in many cultures before written history, it has operated in different dimensions. Slavery is basically an economic system under which individuals are systematically dehumanized as a property, depriving them of their basic rights – including in many cases, to live. To achieve this derogatory treatment in the past, slavery was often backed by the law, which made it an institutionalized and recognized practice. Many economists have tried to define ““ and sometimes justify ““ slavery from economics point of view. They see slavery as a necessity where there is abundant land and lack of labour back up by high wage demand from workers.

The history of dehumanization and traumatized treatment of the black slaves in the USA started after European settlers in North America began importing slaves from Africa as a plentiful, cheap replacement for the weaker Europeans. These African slaves would be needed in different plantations in the USA. With about 7 million slaves from Africa during the 18th century alone, the continent was robbed of its strong, able and potential workforce. But that was not all. With slaves being regarded as properties, slave owners had the “right “ to treat their slaves accordingly. Killing or lynching of unwanted slaves, mistreatment, torture, segregation, cultural uprooting, disorientation and dislocation were some of the “natural“ faith of the slaves. Slaves who survived the inhuman treatments, face their daily lives with “indelible stain“ of slavery, indignity, segregated and marginalized and cultural alienation. All these put together, one is faced with a psychological load of permanent lack of identity, consciousness of colour and indeed nostalgia for the lost homeland, from where they have been uprooted. Up till today, many former slaves in different parts of the world still bear the blunt scars of slavery (mentally, economically, socially, psychologically), which is difficult – if not impossible – to heal.

Even though slave trade had been abolished from 1808 and slavery outlawed in all countries, modern slavery, which accounts for an estimated 20 million to 36 million victims, still lives with us. From forced marriage, child forced labour, debt bondage, domestic servants, child soldiers, serfdom, human trafficking, which effectively forces women and children into sex industries, modern day slavery is not only difficult to stop. The illicit practice has become a multi billion dollar business, which all forces must join hands to eradicate.

As we mourn the evil of the slavery and the holocaust, the world must unite and prevent these two dark and inglorious parts of our history from repeating themselves. Most importantly, we must not allow power to turn us from victims to victimizers. That would be an ironic rape of history. Tolerance, respect, equal rights and justice are sine qua non to a peaceful coexistence ““ irrespective of culture, religion or race. Both Israel and Palestine must learn from history. So must blacks and whites in the USA. And all other human beings – regardless of identity differences.

Clearly, most people believe we have learned our lesson from the holocaust; we have yet to learn our lesson from slavery. Now that the world condemns and commemorates the brutality of the holocaust, is it not the right time to do the same in honour of the victims (dead and living) of slavery?