‘Ordinary People’ is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January 2023. This year, Bob Copeland, who has organised Holocaust Memorial Day events in the community for the past 10 years, is giving a talk at St Mary’s Church, Kingswood.
Responding to the deep concerns of survivors about our inability to stop genocide from happening in the 21st century, Bob will set out some ‘uncomfortable truths’ for us as a nation and as part of the international community.
Bob says, “Over the years, the survivors have spoken about their experience of escaping from persecution in war-time Europe and from more recent events in Rwanda, all delivered in very powerful talks.
“The survivors are keen to tell their stories at events like ours to share their experience but also to demonstrate that if people don’t get a hold of racism, hatred and prejudice in society, this is where it can lead.”
St Mary’s Church has hosted talks from survivors of the Holocaust and other related speakers including, at times, local students sharing their experiences of visiting some of the sites in Poland. In the past, the talks have been linked with the local secondary school’s trip to Poland, with an opportunity for students to listen to first-hand accounts, helping them understanding more about this awful part of history.
Bob says, “This is an important link with Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School and is very much part of our outreach to that community.”
Bob’s ‘uncomfortable truths’ start by looking at the Ten Stages of Genocide, which explain the different stages which lead to genocide. As each stage becomes apparent, there is an opportunity for members of the local or the international community to act to stop genocide before it happens.
“For me, I feel passionate about the whole issue of prejudice and hatred, and am hugely concerned to see these stages becoming more apparent in our society.
“Part of living out my faith is by helping to keep these stories alive, but this year is very different as I strive to explain why hatred and prejudice still persist in our society today, and why the international community has failed to stop genocide from happening in the 21st century. We need to be honest with one another, to face up to the uncomfortable truths and do what we can as ordinary people to respond to them.”
This talk comes at the end of the week of prayer for Christian unity based on the theme of ‘Be-longing: praying for unity amidst injustice’.
Bob says, “With the 30th anniversary of Stephen Lawrence’s murder very much in mind, these events seek to explore how we can contribute to the promotion of racial justice across all levels of society. The blessing in the act of worship to mark the week will also be an apt conclusion to my talk:
… may God bless you with enough foolishness
to believe that you can make a difference in the world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done
to bring justice and kindness to all our children
and the poor.”
Holocaust Memorial Day – Ordinary People starts at 7:30pm on 27 January (refreshments provided) at St Mary’s Church, Kingswood, Wotton-under-Edge. Car parking is available in the primary school.
If you can’t get to the talk, a shorter version is available here.
The full text will be made available after the talk at stmaryskingswood.org.uk
You can also join in with Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023 (ctbi.org.uk)
Find out more about ways you can support Holocaust Memorial Day at Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (hmd.org.uk)