Today is Holocaust Memorial Day, where the UK comes together to remember the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. It also encourages us to reflect and try to learn from genocide and mistakes that were made. As a previous member of the Genocide 80Twenty group and an activist within the genocide education community, I know how powerful this process can be but also where improvements must be made.
Genocide education has made a profound impact on me. Prior to my involvement within genocide education I knew little about genocide. I knew the basics of the Holocaust and the names of subsequent genocide but I treated them as isolated moments of history rather than events that teach us important lessons. Subsequent to my involvement with Genocide 80Twenty, speaking to survivors from varying genocides and visiting Rwanda last summer, I now know how important it is.
Genocide education is more important than ever before. The world is faced with growing extremism, nationalism and xenophobia. Genocide education encourages young people to deal with these threats, teaching them about how society unravels and why we have to unify as people rather than divide.
Holocaust Memorial Day is also a day where we should recognise the contribution that survivors make. Survivors from groups like Survivors Tribune travel the country, often telling difficult stories. They sacrifice their time and energy to help create a new generation of young people that embraces diversity and feels morally responsible to prevent genocide happening again.
Yet work must be done to ensure that genocide education is the best it can be. Greater focus must be placed on positive actors in genocide. I was inspired to become active in genocide education not by knowing the details of the Final Solution but by watching Schindler’s list and meeting figures such as Carl Wilkens and Eric Murangwa. Genocide education must not be done to meet targets, it must aim to encourage young people to create a more inclusive society whether that is being involved in genocide education or just volunteering in the local community.
More opportunities must also be provided to young people to act upon lessons they have learnt from genocide education. Often young people feel inspired to act but have no vehicle to do so. This is why I will be heading up an Ambassador scheme for Survivors Tribune. Its purpose will be to provide an opportunity for young people who want to get involved with genocide education and shape it alongside survivors to make it the best it can be.
So today on Holocaust Memorial Day we should reflect on the lessons of the genocide, recognise the importance of education on genocide and renew the commitment to make sure young people get the best possible experience from it.
James Ingram, 18 years old. Original member and student leader of Genocide 80Twenty which began in November 2014 and I left this year as I have gone to university.
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