Elie Wiesel: A decorated hero for the Persecuted

 

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Mr Wiesel died on 3 July 2016 in his home in Manhattan aged 87.

Few months ago, I first read Elie’s Wiesel  autobiographical book ‘The Night’ which is about his excruciating early experiences of Holocaust, etched on his mind as a 15 year old young boy. Captured and taken into the concentration camps in Nazi Germany, he was deprived of everything he held dear in his life. The loss of his immediate family members, dignity and above all his humanness. Having survived the Holocaust,  It later became his passion to speak out against the persecution which he continued to do so until his death. He argued that why during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany which killed 6 million Jews remained a silent story? How can we tolerate such an intolerance?

His sense of loss, anger, anguish,guilt and bitterness exude through his words:

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed,” Mr. Wiesel wrote. “Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God himself. Never.”

The original manuscript of ‘The Night’ was written in Yiddish. It  was 800 pages long, later an abridged version was printed in French language ‘La Nuit’.

‘The Night’ became one of the most heart-wrenching stories I read in my life, the pain and agony encapsulated in the life of Elie Wiesel gives a reader a sense of contentment about one’s own life, no matter how tumultuous circumstance are around our lives, there is something to appreciate. ‘The Night’ became the expression of Mr Wiesel’s rebellion against God, his faith as well as to the causes of injustice, inequalities and persecution which became the pegs of the Nazi Germany death machine.

Mr Wiesel, became the decorated hero for the persecuted who received countless honours and awards from governments and institutions around the world. He also received a Nobel Prize in 1986 for his role in speaking against persecution, violence, repression and racism. He is also the recipient of more than 100 honourary doctorates.

Mr Wiesel remained a life-long advocate for human rights issues. He served on International Council for the Human Rights where he raised the South African Apartied, Argentinian ‘disappearance’ policy in the dirty war and the Bosnian genocide. He also gave hearing in front of UN Security Council to speak about Darfur humanitarian Crisis in September, 2006. Being the head of the Elie Wiesal Foundation which was established to raise horrors around the world and to promote dialogue on issues which cause divisions and deaths.

So rarely a single life has touched the hearts of millions with its soul-searching account that perpetuated the memory of Holocaust than Elie Wiesel. The Noble Prize Committee while conferring the honour noted;

“Wiesel is a messenger to mankind. His message is one of peace, atonement and human dignity. His belief that forces fighting evil in the world can be victorious is a hard-won belief.”

Wiesel is survived by his wife Marion, their son Shlomo Elisha Wiesel, and his stepdaughter Jennifer and two grandchildren.

The Wiesel legacy is to ‘speak the unspeakable’ and to be the ‘voice the voiceless’. The challenge though looks insurmountable for us in 21st century in midst of countless wide-raged conflicts in and around the world yet the very ‘mission’ has been meticulously executed by Mr Wiesel himself.  A real hero of our times whose life example can be a road map for everyone, from being a meaningless existence in a concentration camp to a meaningful and abundant life outside of it.

Photo0126Shahid Khan is the vice-chairperson of Global Minorities Alliance. He tweets @shahidshabaz

 

German Sikh Community celebrates with local community

GMA Editorial

Essen, Germany  Only a week after their temple had been hit by an extremist bomb attack, the Sikh community of the German city of Essen invited the local community to celebrate the Sikh festival of Nagar Kirtan. ‘Nagar Kirtan is a Punjabi terms which literally means “Neighbourhood Kirtan” and involves a religious procession through the city singing holy hymns. The event had been planned for long and the Sikh community not only saw it as a religious festivity but also as an opportunity to open up to the local community and present to them Sikh customs.

The festival involved ‘Shabad Kirtan’ (singing of hymns from Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the holy scripture of Sikhs), religious songs called ‘Dharmik Geet’, ‘Gatka’ (Sikh martial art) and ‘Langar’ (the provision of free food). Initially, the plan was for the procession to lead from the temple to Kennedy Square, one of the most central and most busy places in the heart of Essen, where the festivities would take place. Security concerns however led to a change of plans and the festivities were relocated to a local stadium after the Sikh community profoundly refused to cancel the event. Continue reading

The Challenge of being a French in today’s France

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Photo Credit: DB Young

France had already experienced terrorism: in the 1950s or 1980s, more recently in 2012 when military men and Jewish schoolchildren and their headmaster were killed or wounded in the South of France. But on January 7th, France discovered a new level of terrorism. There were still precise targets: a satirical magazine, police officers and a kosher supermarket. There were more victims, 17 killed and 16 wounded. Some victims were known to a lot of French people. Charb for example, drew characters to illustrate articles about the Vikings or submarine life in the magazine I read as a teenager. Cabu was the father of the “Grand Duduche” and “Beauf” my Dad’s generation grew up with. Symbols and values were attacked – freedom of the press, secularism, fraternity, freedom in general. The aim was to divide the society, to make everyone feel the fear of being a potential target, anywhere at anytime, to make us think again about our way of life and abandon some of our principles because it could harm us, to make us believe that our neighbour was different and so dangerous because they lived another life, believed in another God, came from somewhere else. It succeeded in the way that people are still arguing about Charlie Hebdo and their caricatures: Should they draw what they draw? To what extent can we mock other people (in any cartoon, from politicians to the average Joe). However, we all came to the conclusion that murder is not and will never be the solution; these people were just doing their job: they were cleaning agents, police officers, journalists, proof-readers and economists and they were doing the grocery or were working in that supermarket. They were all humans and harmless.

It also confirmed that our Republic was able to breed terrorists, lone wolfs who would turn against the country they were born into. The terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo, the kosher supermarket, the Bataclan, cafés which killed people in the streets were French. This is the realisation that was hard to make for France. It was not new, but it was a sort of reaffirmation. We are not protected from terrorism because there is no war on our territory, because we live in Europe and because we have stable institutions. Our society failed in some way, we knew it before but on this morning in January we saw the extent the lack of barriers and support for some kids can lead to. Did “l’École de la République” (the Republic’s school) fail? Did the Justice system fail in preventing delinquents to become terrorists? Why did they feel abandon? Why did they turn against their own country? Why did they suddenly think that extremist ideas were better? How could we have help them before they changed? What can we do to avoid that in the future? How can we reduce the gap in society already created? These were some of the questions asked. We came to the realisation that something was wrong because we did not see it coming. Our intelligence was not ready to deal with lone wolfs, we cannot watch every single citizen to see who is a potential terrorist and who is ready to attack. More importantly for other Europeans, France cannot deal with it alone, we are not the only target. It was more obvious in November as the investigations is leading towards the idea that the Paris attacks were planned in Brussels.

2015 did not only bring the January attacks for France but also smaller attacks, against military men, or police officers throughout the year. In April, ISIS proved they could attack the press through the Internet and that churches were targets, in June we saw that an employee could decapitate their employer in the name of the Islamic State, in August we realised that we were seriously at risks in trains, in July and October our Navy was targeted twice and then in November there was no target or no real target, it could have been anyone. However, even if anyone could be attacked with a knife in the street in the name of ISIS, massive terrorist attacks could happen but were rarer, hence more brutal. We came to the realisation that being French in France was a risk, that we were never really safe. After the Paris attacks in January, the military and the police patrolled even more in the streets, train stations, near tourist attractions. The annual fête organised in most of the schools in the summer was even cancelled for many and kids now have to see a bright red triangle on their school’s door every morning, something I never saw when I was at school and this was two years ago.

What the attacks changed in France was probably mentalities. People realised that their way of life was threatened, that although they were safer than in many parts of the world, there was still a risk. We have to get used to show our bags each time we enter a shopping mall or to think about it when we take a ticket to Paris for the holiday. It emphasised solidarity and a sense of reconnaissance towards the emergency services. The French are proud, and have demonstrated it, of their country, the values they hold, the institutions they have. They are ready to defend it, any way they can, by having four million people in the streets the same day not to shout after the government but to say that they are French. That sense of patriotism is never shown in France and 2015 awakened it. We suddenly realised that we are extremely lucky to live in our country and that we should still defend what we have because it would be taken away any moment. We are proud to live with people from all origins and all faiths, it is what makes France even better. The wish for 2016 is to learn from our mistakes and build a new society altogether, to reinforce fraternity and equality to preserve our liberty. Paris’ motto has never been truer for our generations: Fluctuat Nec Mergitur.

Julie is a second year French student in Politics and International Relations in Scotland.