Holocaust Memorial Day - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 11:53 am ar 2 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of The Bishop of London The Bishop of London Bishop 11:53, 2 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I start by thanking noble Lords for their contributions to this debate, and in particular those to whom the Holocaust and anti-Semitism continue to give deep, personal pain. I know that not only speaking in but listening to this debate will cause them greater concern and pain, so I thank them so much. It is a particular honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anderson, whom I thank so much for what they said.

Last week, it was my privilege to be at the ceremony for Holocaust Memorial Day at the Guildhall in the City, along with a number of noble Lords. Those who were there could not help but be moved by the stories that people recalled. We recalled the murder of so many people in not only the Holocaust but the other genocides since: Darfur, Rwanda, Bosnia and Cambodia, to name but a few: each person loved; each person known; each person missed and each person grieved for. Their loss makes the world a poorer place, even decades later.

The Chief Rabbi reminded us of the fragility of freedom. He said that with freedom from captivity and death comes freedom to be, and that with freedom to be comes responsibility. As we have heard, the Holocaust did not just happen. Genocide does not just happen. It happens slowly, step and step, and begins with words and polarisation. It can be easy to move from, “This is my view and that is your view”, to “I am right and you are wrong. I am good and you are evil”. There is a risk that we hunker down with our own and, in consolidating our sense of belonging within our own communities—of whatever kind—we differentiate ourselves from others and set ourselves apart.

We can live on terms that set us apart from others. Dangerously, we can begin to decide to whom human rights apply and to whom they do not. Hate speech can move to the violent isolation of those who hold different views or are from different ethnicities, races and religions. Discrimination and dehumanisation can move to persecution based on identity and belief. We in your Lordships’ House know that this is not right and that we have a responsibility to play our part in preventing it.

It has been suggested that perhaps one of the most influential texts in modern political history is the imago dei. This is a theology term, applied uniquely to humans, that denotes the symbolic relationship between God and humanity, made in the image of God. The term has its roots in Genesis, chapter 1:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”.

This scriptural passage, shared by both Christians and Jews, does not mean that we are carbon copies of God—rather that humans reflect God and are in the image of God in their moral, spiritual and intellectual nature. To see others as made in the image of God means that I see them not just as I see them but in the light of God, who created them. It gives me a responsibility to see them with an inherent value and dignity. That recognition liberates us not only to reach out in support of others but to stand with them and see our mutuality and interdependence, of which the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, spoke.

Despite the imago dei being one of the most important being philosophical legacies in western culture, it is still in western culture that the Holocaust happened and anti-Semitism continues to happen. Freedom remains fragile. It is not enough for us to mark Holocaust Memorial Day; we have a responsibility to challenge prejudice, hatred and the actions that lead to them in our communities, in wider society and, yes, in our parliamentary system. Each year, I mark Holocaust Memorial Day by listening to personal accounts of man’s inhumanity to man. However, in the midst of those accounts, I also see the best of humanity. It is the best of humanity that lights a candle in the darkness; the darkness will not overcome that. We have a responsibility to act. Let us not shrink from it.