LAST week we marked Holocaust Memorial Day. In Hastings the event was skilfully hosted by Hastings and District Jewish Society, Christian Friends of Israel, and the Council of Christians and Jews with support from Hastings Borough Council.
Nationally and locally, remembrance was made of this terrible period in European history. It is, naturally, an annual event. And those of us who participate have to steel ourselves for the journey down the darkest part of our recent history.
I think many people feel, as I do, that there is no chance of forgetting these events.
But each year, the annual memorial event, sheds new light on the events and provokes further reflection.
And this year at St Mary-in-the-Castle was no different. The really spectacular element were the “untold” stories. I learne about a life that had been saved where the individual went on to deliver life-changing work in controlling malaria in Africa. These were personal stories and testimony to particular people who had died or survived and the impact of those outcomes.
After an introduction by our own Rev Chris Sears, Opera South East provided the wonderful music, Bernard Perkins moved every one of us once more with his Mourner’s Kaddish, and local residents told their stories.
We were also reminded of contemporary examples which have the violence and fury of the Holocaust, and have sought to eradicate people by race or religion. We heard about Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda and the Sudan.
The Rt Rev Ken Barham told us about his experiences in Rwanda. He had a machete as a prop, to demonstrate the violence and cruelty of man’s inhumanity to man.
But fortunately he also shared his hope with us. Following the violence and massacre in Rwanda he described a contemporary Rwanda that is peaceful, clean and forgiving. It was a relief to listen to. After the harrowing stories of the Holocaust and further modern examples, Rev Barham showed us the future of hope and reconciliation.
And we joined him and the many different organisations that had pulled together this extraordinary event, and thanked God for peace and prayed for it to continue.