I am a member of a special club, a fraternity and sorority of brothers and sisters who have experienced genocide, and their descendants. It is not an honor that we would wish to bestow on any other community. But because the term “never again” means so little in reality, we have had to bestow it upon so many. We are members because of an evil that knows no boundaries – not of color, religion, gender or geography. It strikes out against them all. It is called genocide.

The month of April is the time to mourn and to remember for some of our members. The Armenian, Jewish, Cambodian, Rwandan and Darfurian communities gather to remember. They feel a sense of relief that they live in a different time than the darkness that befell their martyrs. In those years, no one cared about them; no court condemned those who were planning to destroy their worlds.

So our communities gather each April with a special feeling. But that does not stop the tears. In the years since our tragedies, we have shed many tears, a flood of tears that dwarfs the 40 days and nights of the great flood during Noah’s time. We cry for all that was lost: a father, a mother, a sister, a brother, a husband, a wife, a son or a daughter. We cry because so many of us have lost our belief in the human spirit.

Who are they, these generations of genocide? Our great Holocaust survivor voice, the late Elie Wiesel, has tried to describe them:

“You must look at them carefully. Their appearance is deceptive … they laugh, they love. They seek what others seek. But it isn’t true. Anyone who has seen what they have seen cannot be like the others, cannot laugh, love, pray, bargain, suffer, have fun or forget like the others. You have to watch them carefully when they pass something that reminds them of that other time, of that horror they endured. Something in them shudders and makes you turn your eyes away. These people have been amputated; they haven’t lost their legs or their eyes but their will and their taste for life. The thing that they have seen will come to the surface again sooner or later and it will bury itself in the generation that follows.”

I do not believe we can lift the pain from our hearts and from our memories, we generations of genocide. And perhaps we should not try. Because it is we who need to feel the pain and keep the memories alive. But if we do so only in the cruel month of April among ourselves what will we gain besides a specific time to mourn?


I believe there is a moral and political significance to our remembering. If Jews, Rwandans. Armenians, Cambodians and Darfuris remember only their own, and do not join together to teach and protest in the face of potential future genocides, then surely we will have issued a warrant for those who allow the black cloud of hatred to carry out their murderous schemes against people with whose skin color, religion, ethnic origin or political persuasion they find fault.

I fear that we generations of genocide will soon have to welcome new members into our special club: Yazidis from Iraq, Muslim Uyghrs from China and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar

Centuries ago, a great Jewish teacher, Rabbi Hillel wrote: “If I am not for myself who will be, but if I am only for myself who am I?” Allow me to add to Rabbi Hillel’s words: If a people who have suffered murder at the hands of an evil government or political movement do not defend the inviolability of their own national spirit and culture, what are they? But if they do not voice that truth in defense of other peoples who have suffered a similar injustice, or who are about to do so, how can they be taken seriously?

All of the members of our cruel but sacred fraternity of brothers and sisters and the generations of genocide need to be, must be, at the front lines of the human rights struggle worldwide. Perhaps then we will become a club with no more new members.

— Special to the Telegram