Names are important.
We correct those who mistake our names.
We ask the names of others early in relationships.
We name our pets, and sometimes our treasured possessions. This is beyond utilitarianism, it makes sense to name places for identification purposes, but naming is more than that. The bestowing of a name gives value. The removing of a name removes personality, denies individuality and deliberately demeans
In the Bible, names abound. They are given at birth, and are sometimes changed to denote a significantly changed relationship.
Thus, Nehemiah tells us that “Thou art the Lord the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham “.
When Simon was chosen to lead the disciples, he became Peter – the rock. After a transforming encounter with Christ, Saul became Paul.
In our culture, we remember those who have gone before. We record names on War Memorials, and when we are unable to do this, we use Rudyard Kipling’s lovely phrase “Known unto God”. It is the gentler , more loving alternative to either ignoring existence or choosing the French rationalist version
“Unconnu” – unknown.
Each week in Churches throughout the the world we pray intercessions for the recently departed and those whose anniversaries of death occur at this time.
January the 27th is observed in the United Kingdom as Holocaust Remembrance Day.
We are asked to remember those who were killed in one of the worst genocides in history. We tend to do so with reference to the enormity represented by that number 6 million.
Some have pointed out that there have been -and continue to be – many similar dreadful mass murderings of God’s children. Sometimes these are politically motivated, other times it is religious or tribal hatred that cause the horror. THey continue even now, yet tragically the victims are rarely identified to us
There is a continuing holocaust of the inconvenient unborn which some condemn on the basis of denied Human Rights, but others condemn with a recollection of the words of Jeremiah, “I knew you before you were formed within your mother’s womb”.
Few of those rejected, will have been given the dignity of a name, but each individual is ” known unto God”. It is more difficult to reject those to whom one has ascribed the dignity of a name. Paradoxically, most still born children will be honoured with the recognition of their uniqueness and many are named.
The holocaust was not only about the Jews, although they were especially targetted by the Nazi anti-Semitists. It is no bad thing to be broad in our recollection.
Unlike many other such tragedies, the Germans documented their victims, we have their names. We can, and should remember them and their individualism.
Throughout Holocaust Remembrance Day Brother Ivo will be tweeting names of the victims . The names will be chosen at random. They will be from different countries. Most will inevitably be Jews. That is fitting when we commemorate the greatest, if, tragically and shamefully, not the only planned European genocide in living memory. Its conception started with the Jews.
As Europe’s Jews begin to feel less safe in recent weeks it is especially important to assert the value and worth of Jewish lives.
The “Final Solution” was powerfully recorded on film. Because of the film and documentation we are well placed to find and remember names. It is always touching to read them. It puts humanity back into the horrifying statistics.
We have the records and the knowledge and the images to both remember and contribute to the promise made when the death camps were liberated, “Never again”.
We can now address our natural human response to turn away, by restoring humanity to those to whom it was so dreadfully denied.
That stripping of humanity began by assigning to victims a category and a number instead of addressing them by name, the name given and shared by those who love them.
To mark the day, Brother Ivo will be tweeting the names of some who died in the death camps. He invites you to share those names on your time lines. You may care to offer a brief prayer for them though they now be in God’s safe keeping. The prayer is probably more for us than them. Remembrance is for the living as well as the dead.
These individuals will have come from various countries, the majority, though not all will be Jewish, others will be communist, gay, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gypsies, some will be criminals – It matters not.
On that day, let us remember them indescriminately simply to affirm the humanity of all God’s children
If you want to contemplate or share recollection, you may find names and restore the dignity of individual remembrance here