Monday, 30 January 2017

Holocaust Memorial service in Southport we must learn the lessons and build bridges and friendships between people not erect walls and ferment divisions

Rev Staurt Broughton, Imam Soyful Alam, Rabbi Ariel Abel and IBB
 The Holocaust Memorial service, presided over by Michael Braham, was one of the most compelling and powerful remembrances for the victims of genocide held in our town.

Young people from the VIth Form Colleges at KGV and Runshaw joined the pupils of St John's Ainsdale in reminding us of the enormous human cost of the holocaust. They told the stories of individual victims, those who had died and those who lived on after the war. Their thoroughly researched presentations had a great emotional impact.

Their contributions were followed by the Imam of Southport Mosque Soyful Alam. The packed congregation, in Christ Church on Lord St, had listened in respectful silence to the young people and to Michael Braham talk about the events that took place in the death camps of Nazi Germany and of the plight of refugees -especially the children- who came to this country and our town. The history they related addressed the theme of the service; how after the genocide can life go on.

The pupils of St John's Ainsdale who acted out a scene about
children arriving in  the UK on the Kindertransport.
Into the silence stepped Soyful to take his place behind the lectern. His powerful address confronted the continuing use of genocide in the world today. He spoke of his despair and our failure to learn the lessons of the holocaust. The world stands aside and fails to act. It is hard to find hope when night after night we see images of genocide and we know how many hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. Soyful warned this failure to act undermines our common humanity and the bonds that should link us all together.

Such was the impact of Soyful's address that the congregation broke in spontaneous and prolonged applause and in the tea room after the service it was the main topic of conversation.

Peter Dowd MP's was unable to attend the service and I was asked to say a few words. As world events are played out and once again the warping influence of nationalism and populist politicians threaten the peace and stability of our world it is more important than assert our values. One of my responsibilities as Mayor is to preside over Citizenship ceremonies during which we declare our allegiance to the British values of respect and tolerance. We must fight intolerance and prejudice wherever we encounter it. The Holocaust was an indescribable atrocity, and we must never forget the victims of this evil and those other acts of genocide that continue to this day. The work of Holocaust Memorial Day keeps alive the memory of those who died and those who survived.  We own a great debt to those who dedicate themselves to educating the public. One such person is Pauline Collier (pictured above with the pupils of St John's), who is a Fellow at the Imperial War Museum. She has been central to the success of the Southport Holocaust Memorial service as long as I can remember. Thanks to her and those who work alongside her the next generation have been taught about the terrible event that took place.

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