Thinking Anew – Remember where hatred can lead

A fence at the former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald near Weimar, Germany. Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

A fence at the former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald near Weimar, Germany. Photograph: Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters

 

Last week in the Bavarian parliament in Munich members of the far-right AfD Alternative for Germany walked out in protest as a Holocaust survivor accused the party of trivialising the crimes of the Nazis.

Charlotte Knobloch is an 86-year-old Jew who managed to escape the Nazi terror by being adopted by a Catholic family in northern Bavaria who pretended she was their illegitimate daughter. Knobloch accused the AfD of basing its politics on hatred and exclusion.

She called on politicians to “stand against hatred”.

Hatred is not something new. We all have the facility, the potential to hate.

Fortunately, since the end of the second World War, at least in most parts of the developed world, there has been an attempt at bringing people together. The great aim of the founding members of the European Union was to heal the wounds of war and bring the opposing parties together.

The vision of the European Union is to give people in all its member states the possibility of realising their potential and improving the quality of life for everybody.

Only last week Christian churches celebrated the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. It grew out of the Second Vatican Council and its purpose was that Christians of different denominations would learn more about each other, pray together and maybe eventually join hands and share the one Eucharist. A communion of peoples.

But alas the original enthusiasm for praying for unity has lost its momentum. Unfortunately, the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity has become now a much more timid affair.

These days the world seems to give far more attention to the loudness and vulgarity of leaders, political and not political, who focus their attention on hatred and exclusion. The “outsider”, the asylum seeker, those looking to live better lives in the developed world are easy prey on to which to load all the woes of the world. Meanwhile the world’s 26 richest people own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population, which is 3.8 billion people.

Social media is on fire with stories of hatred. Sadly, some never miss the slightest opportunity to disseminate the ugliest and most brutal of stories. The more graphic the evil the more newsworthy is the story. Sensible, “ordinary” people are shocked by what’s happening, but it seems to be relentless. It’s fashionable to be angry and okay to hate.

Last Sunday was World Holocaust Day. It was on January 27th that the 322nd Rifle Division of the Red Army arrived at the gates of Auschwitz and liberated the remaining inmates of the German death camp.

It’s essential that we never forget what happened in Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau, in all the places where people were starved, brutalised and murdered. Because by not forgetting, we have some chance of preventing it happening again. In the current climate of hatred and all forms of extremes we need to be reminded how easy it is for human beings to slip into barbarism. The Nazis managed to spread a gospel of hate in Germany, blaming the Jews and the outsider for all their problems.

In tomorrow’s Gospel reading Jesus impresses his listeners because he speaks kindly to them. “And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.” (Luke 4: 22)

Also, in tomorrow’s liturgy, St Paul tells us that there are three things that last, “faith hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Tomorrow’s readings, as with everything about the Christian message, offer us great support, great hope in a time when hatred, vulgarity, and blaming the other is in the ascendancy.

It is difficult to understand why the gracious words of Jesus are not being shouted from the rooftops in these times when the world is so in need of healing and soothing words to stem the flow of an ever-increasing and angry mood. How we need to listen to the gracious words of Jesus and then speak and live them.

MICHAEL COMMANE

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