Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Have You Ever Been Punished for Something You Didn't Do?

My friends Jenn and Chester, who I am visiting in Delaware this week, had to work today, so I decided to take a road trip to Washington DC.  It was a fabulous experience.  I got to see the White House, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, The Capital Building, a Smithsonian Art Museum and I did a walking tour of most of the popular buildings. The place that affected me the most was the Holocaust museum.  I knew that it was going to impact me but not nearly as deeply as it did. I ran through a gamut of emotions, during the 4 hours I was there, anger and sadness being the prominent ones.

The first exhibit I entered was an interactive walk through of the life of a young Jewish boy named David.  It is designed for young students and was incredibly well staged. It starts with David asking "Have you ever been punished for something you didn't do? I was". Then the journey begins in his home where he played with friends from his neighbourhood, and takes you through the community as the Nazi Regime takes over, then the ghetto he was placed in and it ended with him as a young survivor leaving the concentration camp.  I went through this twice, and both times it had me in tears.

After this I circled through the exhibits that began on the 4th floor and ended on the first.  I read every story and fact that accompanied the photos, artefacts, first hand audio accounts, and disturbing video footage from the concentration camps themselves.  Again I was left disgusted, overwhelmed, heart broken and I think most of all angry.  That was the emotion that kept welling up as I walked through the museum - ANGER!  I kept thinking how could this happen, how could it be ignored and allowed to go that far (learning that the US and other countries had opportunities to step in and help in a myriad of ways but did not).   What is worse is that history continues to repeat itself, even in my generation! Rwanda and Darfur are genocides comparable to the moral repugnancy of the Holocaust.   It is abhorrent that this is allowed to happen.  It is disgusting that it is not shut down at first thought let alone the first dead innocent. It is inexcusable and I am certain God will not be mute on judgment day, when it comes to our silence and inaction in this matter!  Perhaps this is where we should expect to be "punished" for something we didn't do  - because of what we didn't do,  "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?" Isaiah 58:6 "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed." Psalm 82:3 "Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." Isaiah 1:17

The exhibits end with a video of survivors of the holocaust. sharing personal experiences.  Stories expressing the reality of loss, but so too the strength of faith and the power of friendship and loyalty. As the video comes to a close, one woman beseeches generations now and to come "Remember our stories and stand up to any form of persecution"

Martin Luther King Jr. who's life was celebrated on Monday, here in the USA is well known for speaking against the attitudes and ignorance that contributes to these atrocities.  "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal." "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." and "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."  His kicker quote in regards to all this "The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict."

There were so many powerful moments, I would love to share.  So many lessons worth passing on, but this is a forum better suited to shorter messages. So the stories and lessons will be presented individually over the days and weeks to come, an homage to those in the video and a sort of  reminder to remember.

 Deuteronomy 4:9

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