Luton mark Holocaust Memorial Day
Date Uploaded: 
Thursday 1st February 2018

Holocaust Memorial Day brings forth many emotions and this year was no different.   Across towns and cities in every continent people came together.   Some to grieve, some to remember, some to educate and a few to forgive. 

This year why was the Holocaust Memorial Day so memorable here in Luton? 

Luton has a reputation of being home to a large Asian community.  A community, reputably, that doesn’t always look friendly towards Jews and Israel.   This reputation is grossly exaggerated and undeserved.   As a town, Luton has a very diverse and broad range of cultures, religions and nationalities – and they all get along very well together – co-operating on multi faith and multi cultural issues through initiatives of the Luton Council of Faiths, Police Community Cohesion and the robust support of Luton Town Council. 

This was so clearly demonstrated this past Thursday evening (27th). 

The University of Bedfordshire hosted the annual HMD event in one of their large lecture halls.   Whilst this may not have the same gravitas as the Council Chamber originally used for the event, it provides superb space and acoustics for the speakers, Luton Cantores and Stopsley High School drama students, and soon filled with a very large gathering from all communities across the town, coming together to commemorate not only the Nazi Holocaust but those Genocides against all humanity, irrespective of their own individual backgrounds and history. 

But again, why was this so different?   Why, because we had a significant Muslim attendance who  joined other groups in erecting their own display promoting peace and co-operation amongst all, and in particular recognising the similarities between Muslim, Christian and Jew.    And, we had an Iman from one of the local Mosques as a speaker to the assembled audience.   Afterwards I learnt this was his first public talk in front of a non-Muslim audience and he was very nervous.  He needn’t have been – what he said, the way he said it and with such sincerity; he captured the attention of all those present. 

But the most moving and emotionally draining narrative was delivered by a young Rwanda survivor who described her very personal and harrowing experience as a 12 year old girl witnessing her mother and younger brother’s brutal massacre, of her hiding, scavenging and eventual redemption.   She now uses The Power of Words to describe how this atrocity began, how it progressed, how she survived and how she forgives – but never forgets.   Teenagers, and the more cynical adults in the audience, were all moved by her words and her generosity towards the perpetrators.   I only hope we all learnt something from this very humble young lady. 

A message that came across many times, Words are very Powerful.   They can be used for good, but they are too frequently used for bad.   So next time somebody says “Luton!  That town just 30 minutes from London but it’s like being in another country” ask yourself the question “Who says that is the case?   The media, who only like to make negative non news.   Or somebody that has really experienced the peace and quiet of the Bedfordshire countryside, small towns, villages and local community?” 

Perhaps next year you will join the small but active Jewish community here in Luton at the 2019 HMD event. 

Brian Green