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We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim

9th December 2019

In a recent discussion in class on a quotation similar to this weeks ‘thought’, one of the Lower Transits (Year 9) recounted a lesson on bullying from their junior school. Bullying they were told, included at least three people; a bully, a victim and a bystander. It was made clear to them that neutrality was not an option and would help only the bully, never the victim. I applaud that junior school teacher for teaching such a valuable lesson. It was then added to by another Lower Transit who said they were called upon to be the fourth person, an ‘upstander’, upstanding for the victim and for what was right and good. An advocate for justice in an unjust situation.

Our discussion took place in the context of learning about the Holocaust both in history and religious studies. This is never an easy subject to teach and it is important to introduce it in an age-appropriate way. However the importance of the lessons to be learned from its study should never be underestimated. Earlier in the year two of our Study girls visited Auschwitz as a part of a schools programme run by the Holocaust Educational Trust. An account of their experience can be read in the current school magazine ‘The Elm’.

Elie Weisel, the author of this week’s quotation was born a Jew in Romania. Eliezer ‘Elie’ Wiesel was captured by the Nazis, but survived the death camps of Auschwitz, Buna-Monowitz and Buchenwald. After liberation he resolved to honour the memory the millions who died in the gas chambers by telling the story of the Holocaust. In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Wiesel ‘swore never to be silent when and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation’. Silence, in Wiesel’s view ‘encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere’. He continues ‘When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must, at that moment, become the centre of the universe’.

In our studies at school we are concerned to share the stories of those people who chose to ‘interfere’ and were ‘upstanding’ during the Holocaust, such as Oskar Schindler and Nicholas Winton. Their lights shone in the darkness and remind us of the importance of challenging injustice wherever it is encountered. And as we enter the Christmas season perhaps we should be considering where we in our world, are currently called to be ‘upstanding’, so that ‘peace and goodwill’ may become incarnate.

Happy Christmas.

Mrs C Crossley

We Must Always Take Sides. Neutrality Helps The Oppressor Never The Victim. Silence Encourages The Tormentor Never The Tormented.