In this month of November, and season of remembrance, I want to share with you one of the sadder visits we made on our recent pilgrimage to the Holy land. On the Sunday afternoon we visited the World Holocaust Memorial Centre – Yad Vashem – which is located on the Mount of Remembrance, part of the Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem. It is not a ‘religious’ site but a museum or repository for the stories and artefacts of those tragic war years. It ensures that we remember the six million Jews murdered in an attempt to annihilate an entire race of people. And there were also many thousands of others who didn’t fit the template for the perfect Aryan race.
At Yad Vashem the visitor wanders through a modern and well-presented exhibition which tells real stories of lives, families, neighbourhoods and countries torn apart because these people were considered ‘different’. To see their cases, their letters, their shoes, their photographs made it all feel very close and personal.
There is a special memorial to the one million children who died in concentration camps. Mirrors reflect living flames which look like a universe of stars as the names of those children are read out continuously day and night. The only response to such a visit is silence.
A third century desert monk, St Anthony of Egypt, once said:
A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, ‘You are mad; you are not like us.'
As we watch helplessly and see Aleppo disintegrate, and await the demolition of the Calais jungle, we may think that the world has gone mad. And maybe some point at the TV screen and say ‘You are mad; you are not like us.’
On Remembrance Sunday we remember those who have died in the madness of numerous wars and conflicts, giving their lives that we might have peace and life and freedom. On Remembrance Sunday we pray also for peace in our hearts, that we may not point at others and declare ‘he is not like us’, but rather see how alike we are, loved by God, children of the same heavenly Father.