Holocaust Memorial Day is the international day to remember the six million Jews murdered in the the Holocaust, the millions of people killed under Nazi persecution, and people killed in more recent genocides including Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, with a focus on fostering education, remembrance, and unity within the community.
Islington Council’s event on Friday 26 January also commemorated the victims of other genocides and remembers atrocities that have tragically taken place throughout history, such as the Halabja Massacre. This year’s event marks the 30th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2024 was Fragility of Freedom. The event reflected on what freedom means to each of us, and how fragile and vulnerable freedom is, and how we can all take steps to work towards a world that supports freedom.
Emily Cass, daughter of a Holocaust survivor, spoke about her mother’s harrowing escapes from arrest for being Jewish. Emily emphasised the importance of preserving the unique experiences and injustices felt by each victim, to prevent the horrors of the past from fading into history.
Sophie Musabe Masereka, a survivor of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, shared her personal experiences, highlighting the profound impact of genocide on individuals and communities, and called for continued efforts to promote tolerance and prevent such atrocities.
Sawsan Salim, a Kurdish Women’s Activist and Director of the Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation (KMEWO), offered a compelling account of the Halabja massacre, underscoring the importance of acknowledging and remembering lesser-known genocides to prevent their recurrence.
The event began with a performance by the World Harmony Orchestra, an ensemble comprising immigrants and refugees dedicated to using their art for peace and humanitarian causes.
Cllr Khondoker said: “The incredibly powerful testimonies for Holocaust Memorial Day show us the terrible consequences on humanity of intolerance and hatred.”
“All these stories happened within living memory, and it just shows us the fragility of freedom, even in our modern times. Therefore, it is imperative that we educate ourselves on all these atrocities and continue to learn from our past so that we do not ever repeat them.”
“I am honoured that we held an event to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda and that we continue to reflect on this. We are fortunate in Islington that we are a very diverse borough and benefit from the strength that this diversity brings. We will always be a welcoming place for all, and we are stronger when we stand together.”
Community representatives also read statements of commitment, with addresses also from Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Leader of Islington Council; Cllr Gary Heather, Mayor of Islington, Cllr Roulin Khondoker, Executive Member for Equalities, Culture and Inclusion, Cllr John Woolf, Executive Member for Community Safety, Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North and Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury and young people from the borough.