In a recent study of over eight hundred 11-16 year old students a group of Year 11 pupils found that 81% could not name any modern genocides but 78% agreed they would benefit from more genocide education. This study comes in the wake of representatives from 15 schools around the country visiting the House of Commons to discuss increasing genocide education with Sir Eric Pickles (UK Envoy on Post Holocaust Issues).
Since the term genocide came into play 67 years ago, to describe the international crime that occurred during the Holocaust, it has also applied to tragedies in Rwanda, Bosnia & Cambodia as well as Darfur; to name but a few. Sir Pickles told the group he met with that “we need to understand that within society we’re all capable of injustice and hatred”. Although a sad comment on the state of mankined this statement bares the ring of truth. There is a reason the quote “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it”* is a familiar saying for many of us.
There is a plus-side to this conversation. As Chief Exec of Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, Olivia Marks-Woldman commented the students involved in this project deserve congratulations as they have “refused to stand by and are determined to raise awareness of genocide”. This group of students give me hope for the future. They are making sure future generations learn from history. As one year 13 student from Hampton School commented “I used to think that, after the Holocaust, ‘Never Again’ meant exactly that”.
This should be a message to all of us. When raising money and awareness for the tragedies of Darfur when I was in secondary school there was a number of posters we used to raise awareness. One of these encapsulated mine and the Year 13 students thoughts exactly. Following a list of genocides since the Holocaust ending with Darfur the message read: thought we said never again.
It is, of course, important to remember the tragedies of genocide but unless we educate about them and learn their lessons we are failing to make the world a better place. Dr Waqar Azmi, the chairmen of Remembering Srebrenica, commemorating the massacre of Bosnia’s Muslims, said it better than I ever could when he spoke to the BBC: “It is vital our young people learn the lessons from genocide so they can lead the challenge against hatred and intolerance, whilst helping to create a better, safer, more cohesive society”.
I sincerely hope moving forward that young people and adults will come together to make sure that those who suffered are not forgotten and our lessons are learnt so they did not die in vain. With genocide estimated to have claimed the lives of 170million in the 20th century, more casualties than the international wars of the same time period, this is not an issue we can or should ignore. Until my utopian world is dreamed into reality I hope you will take the time to look at the links below and learn more about genocide and what we can do to prevent it.
*This quote is believed to belong to George Santayana the philosopher and author. In its original form, it is believed to have read ‘those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’
To find a list of modern genocides (Wikipedia!) click here
To read about Genocide Watch working toward genocide prediction and prevention click here
To read various estimations of genocide casualties click here