Elie Wiesel said in his Nobel Peace Price speech in 1986:
“And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
In my opinion this is basic human decency and compassion. It shouldn’t need a holocaust survivor to remind us that human life is precious, diversity is beautiful, and mutual respect is essential for our survival.
And this should not be something we only remember when yet another person’s human rights have been violated in front of a running camera, briefly igniting our collective self-righteous indignation.
Look at your life. On a regular day, what do you do to protect the lives and hearts of others? Do you care what happens to the refugees in the camp only a few miles away from your house? Do you care about the transgender woman who is beaten to death in a dark alley simply for being who she is? Do you care about the man who is being bullied on the street for the color of his skin? Are you aware of your prejudices? Your unconscious biases? We all have them.
In order to build a better world, we need to care and be aware on a daily basis. Of course, none of us can carry the burden of the entire world on our shoulders. But we can each make a difference in our own private and public lives. We can be kind when it matters, we can say “I’m sorry” when it matters, we can forgive when it matters, we can be compassionate when it matters, and we can make the brave decision to not be silent when it matters.