‘Ordinary People’ prepare to unite for Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony

Published Sunday 15 January 2023 at 18:45

The borough’s annual Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony will bring our local community together to remember and pay respects to victims of genocide, oppression and torture.

On Friday 27 January, Holocaust Memorial Day itself, Blackburn with Darwen Council and the Blackburn with Darwen Interfaith Forum will jointly host the ceremony in the Council Chamber at Blackburn Town Hall.

With speakers from different faith communities and contributions from local secondary school pupils, the ceremony aims to share the message that we need to unite to reject hatred in all its forms.

Everyone present at the event will remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi persecution and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.

Holocaust Memorial Day is observed the world over. The theme of this year’s commemoration is ‘Ordinary People’. It aims to highlight how genocide is committed by ordinary people, against other ordinary people because of their faith and beliefs, and also how ordinary people have the collective power to stand up to prejudice and hatred.

Standing together at the moving tribute in Blackburn Town Hall on 27 January will be ordinary people of all ages from across our local community. Schools pupils will join with community leaders and interfaith representatives, gathered together in the spirit of love and peace.

Pupils from eight local secondary schools will share their thoughts on the subject of Ordinary People, and Blackburn with Darwen Youth MP Muhammad Bapu will also speak at the event.

A video from the Holocaust Memorial Trust will also be shown, and Rabbi Arnold Saunders, a great friend of the borough who regularly contributes to local Holocaust Memorial Day activities, will give the keynote address.

At the end of the ceremony candles will be lit as a sign of peace and unity, and a one minute silence will be observed.

Councillor Phil Riley, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, said:

In Blackburn with Darwen Holocaust Memorial Day is an important date in our community calendar. It provides the perfect opportunity to reflect on the Holocaust and other atrocities and understand why is it so important that we learn from them, so that they are never repeated.

It’s been three years since we have been able to gather together in person as a community – during the pandemic, however, we continued to pay our respects to victims of persecution, by holding Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations online.

I’m looking forward to standing together with local people from all walks of life – ordinary people who feel strongly about uniting to reject hatred in all its ugly forms.

Derek Estill, Secretary of the Blackburn with Darwen Interfaith Forum, is jointly organising the ceremony with Council officers. He said:

Our Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration is always a very moving ceremony. We are very grateful to have Rabbi Arnold Saunders coming along to share his wisdom with us, and I’m looking forward to hearing from the young people from local schools as they share their own views on how ordinary people like them can be a force for good in the world and call out prejudice and hatred before it escalates.

The Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony will be held between 10am and 11am on Friday 27 January in Blackburn Town Hall, and is open to people of all faiths and no faith.

Anyone who would like to attend should contact the Council’s Corporate and Democratic Lead Phil Llewellyn on (01254) 585369 or phil.llewellyn@blackburn.gov.uk.

From Monday 23 January Blackburn Cathedral will host two exhibitions designed to give people the opportunity to learn about Jewish culture and customs.

The ‘Jewish Living Experience’ is a touring exhibition that gives people an opportunity to experience Judaism through beautifully illustrated display panels and by handling authentic cultural artefacts. School groups can also take part in educational activities that promote experiential learning.

‘They’re only Pictures’ is a thought-provoking exhibition of photographs of Auschwitz taken by an interfaith group on a recent visit. It focuses on the impact of community dialogue on our understanding of dignity and mutual respect.

These exhibitions, which are open to anyone, have been organised in collaboration with Blackburn with Darwen Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE), Blackburn Diocese Board of Education, Blackburn Cathedral, the North East Religious Resources Centre and the Board of Deputies.

Alison Ashworth-Taylor, Chair of Blackburn with Darwen SACRE, commented:

These two exhibitions offer our young people a fantastic opportunity to learn more about Judaism. With a small Jewish population, Blackburn with Darwen does not have a synagogue and so opportunities to learn about Judaism and the Jewish culture are limited. I’m really pleased that, by working together, we have been able to bring these exhibitions to the borough, around the time of Holocaust Memorial Day.

As well as hosting visits from local secondary school and sixth form pupils, the exhibitions are open to anyone in our local community who wants to learn more about the Jewish faith.

Both of these exhibitions will run for two weeks until 5 February, and are free to visit during the cathedral’s normal opening hours.

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