Translating Memory into Action

We remember the Holocaust, in part, to ensure that it never happens again. But the dream of “never again” has yet to become a reality. Even today, the Burmese government permits attacks on civilians, particularly those of ethnic minorities. In the Darfur region of Sudan, millions have been displaced and hundreds of thousands have been killed. Women in displacement camps are often raped if they travel outside of the camp to gather necessities like firewood.

So what can we do to make “never again” a reality? We must keep our lofty goal of “never again” in mind while taking practical steps. We’re not at a point where we can treat the disease, but we can treat the symptoms. Perhaps one day we’ll be able to prevent hatred and violence and lessen deeply entrenched ethnic tensions. For now, however, we have to focus our efforts on providing internally displaced persons (IDPs), ethnic minorities, and other victims with the supplies and services that help them meet their human needs.

I’d like to highlight two projects that consider “never again” while making a difference on the ground. The Genocide Intervention Network’s Civilian Protection Program aims to directly prevent physical violence against civilians. Their Firewood Project provides families in displacement camps with income-generating opportunities, so women may buy firewood and other necessities, rather than leave their camps to gather supplies and risk rape. Challah for Hunger is a grassroots organization at universities throughout the United States. Students get together and bake challah, which they sell on campus. At least 50% of proceeds go to the American Jewish World Service’s (AJWS) Sudan Relief and Advocacy Fund; the other 50% may go to another service organization of the chapter’s choice. Challah for Hunger and the AJWS fund several projects on the ground, including emergency, preventative, and basic healthcare services; reproductive and nutritional health services; post-trauma counseling; access to clean water and other basic needs; and capacity-building.

Though memory alone can’t solve human rights crises, it’s still a powerful call to action. To get involved in genocide prevention, please visit the Genocide Intervention Network website.


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