Friday, March 6, 2015

The Montreal Holocaust Centre, Part Two

 Today I went with Grace, Darren and Grace's dad, Mark to  The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.  It was a second visit for all of us except for Darren, and it was good, in the way that difficult and powerful moments are good. Darren is an English historian, an expert on the world wars and the 1940s. Still, he felt that there were gaps in his knowledge about the Holocaust, and the Memorial Centre was the perfect place to help fill in some of the blanks for him.
Picture courtesy of The Montreal Holocaust Memorial

I wrote about my first visit to the Memorial Centre here.  At the time, there really were no words, I felt the pain and horror of what I had seen and heard deeply and to try to put my feelings into words would only serve to minimize the unfathomable.

Today was different.  There still are no words. No words that I can speak or write, that is. For the past few months, the thought that God keeps bringing to my mind is "listen."  I've spent a lot of time, over the years, finding my own voice and trusting God's encouragement to use it in His wisdom and will. Becoming acquainted with  my own voice has made me more aware of the voices of others.

Oddly enough, I talked more and listened less when I didn't trust my own voice or accept the freedom and responsibility of using it.  Going into the Holocaust Memorial Centre today, I was eager to listen to the voices of the survivors, to hear their stories, from their thoughts and their words. I spent almost an hour and a half in the Memorial, equipped with an iPad and ear piece, lingering over the pictures and artifacts, reading the stories and listening to the experiences of those who had survived.

The first time we went to the Holocaust Memorial, it was with our CEGEP history class.  Someone asked me, at that time, why I wanted to go. To be honest, I wondered the same thing. Not because I thought I shouldn't want to go. I just wanted to know why. Curiosity? To gain knowledge? Was I looking for something? 

Today, my reason for wanting to visit the Memorial back then and even today became clear.  The Nazi Holocaust was an organized, brutal, horrific attempt to silence the voices of an entire people. In the process, they sought to also silence anyone that they deemed unworthy. Millions and millions of voices were silenced forever. The sick and disabled, the poor, homosexuals, immigrants, people of color, political prisoners. What can one do against such evil? It is despairing, tortuous to learn of the depths of horror and tragedy, the torture and death, degradation and destruction, and to feel helpless to do anything.  Not only was it so long ago, but it was so overpowering and demonic. My heart is compelled to do something, anything. But what can I do? What can any of us do?

What is the ultimate rebellion against an evil that seeks to silence the voices of others? The ultimate rebellion is to listen. Hear. Absorb. Believe.  I wanted to step into the light of truth that shone over the darkness of hatred, violence, deceit and secrecy. I wanted to hear the voices calling to me, from letters and videos and pictures and dolls and prayer shawls and blue and white striped tunics and shoes and trains and death camps disguised as train stations, death chambers as shower rooms.

I wanted to honor the memories of the dead by listening to those who remained to tell their stories. Because evil doesn't want these stories told.    And because there are voices, even today, that are being silenced and I want to be in the habit of listening to the stories of others, of reaching out and connecting to people who have stories that they need to tell. And who may need to hear some of my stories.

There are people in all of our lives who need us to listen to them.  How did the Holocaust get so big, so evil, so quickly? The answer is, by the powerful ability of the Nazi party to silence the victims and the equally powerful determination of the people not to listen.  We say, never again. But are we willing to live lives that says, never again? 

We are surrounded by powerful voices that tell us what to believe about people groups that do not have strong voices of their own. I will not rely on the media or politicians or advertisers or televangelists or actors to tell me about those living in poverty, about people of different religions, about prisoners and immigrants and addicts and the mentally ill and the many, many groups that struggle daily just to get by.  If I want to know about them, I will do two things. I will go Jesus and ask Him to give me His heart for people, and then I will go to them and listen to their voices. I will choose not to fear, because love casts out fear and anyone who tries to instill and control me through fear will be shut down and thrown out of my head.  I will answer to a call to the courage and power that is found in the powerful love of God.

Mostly, though, with God's grace and help, I will listen. 

It may not seem like much, but I am beginning the think that it just may be the most powerful thing.
After all, if it wasn't so powerful, it'd probably be a lot easier, wouldn't it?

Lord, give us strength....

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