This Yom Hashoah, I am reminded by two quotes from Viktor Frankl, survivor of the Shoah and author of Man’s Search for Meaning. The first is this one:
I recommend that the Statue of Liberty be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the west coast.
and the second, this:
Live as if you were living a second time, and as though you had acted wrongly the first time.
To say that the world reacted appropriately the first time, no matter when you would like to label “the first time” would clearly be false and if by “the first time” one meant the Shoah, we can be assured of that fact. The ability to act, the liberty, did not translate into a responsibility to act and America acted wrongly the first time. The world entire acted wrongly the first time.
The world has not stopped genocide from occurring in nation after nation. We cry out “Never again!!!” but too often without acting to make that a reality. We instead mourn with those suffer while watching silently at a distance. We allow for indifference to rule the public sphere. Our response is too often that the responsibility lies with others. We forget the words of Rabbi Tarfon, who said that “It is not up to us to complete the work, but neither can we desist from it?” Daunting the task, we are nonetheless obligated to take it on. We are obligated to care.
Never again. Never again, we say. Never again will we allow ourselves or others to stand idle while our neighbor bleeds. Never again will we be hopeful that distance and disconnect relieve us of the responsibility to acts of righteousness and to fight against tyranny, oppression, and blind hatred. Never again can we allow racism to result in mass murder or even genocide. Not because of the color of our skin, nor on account of our ancestry, nor for the sake of the way in which we address divinity may we excuse such behavior. If it is not up to us to protest, then who will protest? We must speak out against those who murder innocents for any reason. There is no justification for such actions, not in supposed superiority of race or ethnicity, not because of oppression, not in quest of liberation, not for religious ideals.
Anne Frank hid in an attic in fear for her life. Today, children in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan fight a famine and hide in caves from bombs. I am not comparing the Shoah with events in Sudan, I’m comparing the world’s response to the Shoah to the world’s response to events in Sudan. Anne Frank’s family began its flight from the Nazis in 1933 when they took power in Germany. The family fled to the Netherlands in 1940. They were forced into hiding because of persecution by July of 1942. Their hiding place revealed in 1944, Anne and her sister Margot died of typhus in a concentration camp in March of 1945.
Friends, for the people of Darfur, it is 1944 already. Hundreds of thousands have died in genocide. For the people of the Nuba Mountains, it is 1943 or even early 1944. We have the chance to help, but not a long time left to do so. Many tens of thousands of lives may be saved:
- If we make sure that humanitarian aid arrives even though the government of Sudan refuses to allow it be delivered.
- If we prevent Antonov bombers from massacring innocents in villages and fields.
- If we act now.
We join together with those who care to heed the call of responsibility in fellowship and common concern for the lives being lost in Sudan, innocents being killed for having the wrong skin color, wrong ethnicity, wrong faith. We must make it known that this inhumanity may not be tolerated, that national sovereignty does not grant a government the power to abuse its population without end, and that no ethnicity or religion may be exempted from criticism.
Please consider, if you have not already, signing up to receive email from the organization that I have created to spread the word about the situation in the southern part of Sudan, Help Nuba. Please spread the word in sermons, by email, in Facebook (like “Help Nuba“) and on Twitter (@HelpNuba). We cannot stand idly by. It is our hope, the hope of those with whom I am working on this project: the people of the Nuba Mountains, those from Darfur, those from Blue Nile and those from South Sudan, along with caring friends from around the world of all faiths that by learning, uniting together, and speaking out, we can make a difference. Never again! Help Nuba!