26th January 2018

On 27 January, people from around the world pause to remember the millions of people who have been murdered or whose lives have been changed beyond recognition during the Holocaust. The memorial sustains the memory, not only of those who suffered the Nazi Persecution, but many others who experienced subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

The Seventh-day Adventist church was represented at the Northern Ireland commemoration – held on 25 January in Derry/Londonderry this year – by Pastor Weiers Coetser and at least one young church member who attended as part of a school group.

The event featured a variety of speeches, music, poetry and the personal recollections Dr. Martin Stern, a Holocaust survivor.

Through the evening members of the audience were reminded of the great tragedy of ethnic cleansing and violence against different people groups that darken the pages of history from the earliest epochs to the present time.

A community, whose holocaust experience is often neglected is the Roma community. It is believed that up to 500 000 Roma lives were taken during this event. The Holocaust is known by the Roma community as ‘Porajmos’, which means ‘devouring’ or ‘destruction’ in some dialects of the Romani language. The tragic persecution severely damaged the social structures and transmission of culture by the Roma community – effects that are still painfully etched into the memories of the community today, including those who live in Ireland.

In his speech, Dr. Martin Stern, reminded the audience that the leaders who historically presided over the destructive acts of ethnic cleansing were often weak, ineffective people. “They were put in power by ordinary citizens like you and me!”

Is the Holocaust just a historic event, or is it still an ever-present danger today? Dr. Stern referred to research indicating that 86% of the population believe that they are nicer than the average person – a fact that can clearly not be true. “Prejudice is something that we need to develop a continual awareness about in our own lives.” He told of a Holocaust museum where there are two doors to another room. One of the doors has a sign that says ‘those who harbour prejudice enter here.” The other door has a sign that says “Enter if you are free of prejudice”. Visitors to the museum inevitably choose to open the door that says, “free of prejudice”… only to find that the opening behind the door is bricked up.

As the commemoration continued, a Rabbi recited the words of a famous musical piece that was written during the Holocaust and miraculously survived to the present day. The words of the song Ani ma’amin, Be’emuna shelema, Beviat hamashiach ani ma’amin, when translated, mean:

‘I believe with complete faith,
In the coming of the Messiah,
I believe … and even though he may tarry,
Nonetheless I will wait for him.’

After reciting these words, the musical piece was performed by Lowry String Quartet.

Seventh-day Adventists share this sentiment of longing for a better time and a better place. We believe that there is a tremendous battle between good and evil in this world. There is no reason to think that the world we live in will of its own become free of violence and hatred. As we join with others around the world this weekend – to remember the horrors and the pain of the Holocaust - we do so humbly searching for our own prejudice; and praying for the coming of our Messiah to inaugurate a new creation, and a world free from evil, violence and pain.

Several versions of the song Ani Ma'amin is on YouTube. Here is one with lyrics by the Miami Boys Choir.

[Weiers Coetser]


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