Sunday January 27th will be International Holocaust Remembrance Day, as designated by the United Nations. It’s the day when Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet forces in 1945. It’s a single day when we are asked to remember. To remember those who perished and the suffering of those who survived. It’s an International Day of Remembrance so that all of us, not just Jews, can pause and remember and collectively repeat “never again”.

Except never again keeps on happening again and again and again.

I want to dedicate this January 27th to the forgotten victims and survivors of this century’s most recent genocide: you remember, the one against the Yazidis. The one that happened back in 2014. Yes, there have actually been more recent atrocities: the burning of Rohingya villages in Myanmar, the civil war in Syria and the catastrophe in Yemen. All are beyond comprehension. But today I am focusing on the loss and suffering of a single woman I met last week.

 

  © Emmanuel Bastien for 3 Generations

Her name is Zozeya. This is her portrait. She is a young mother who witnessed the killings of her family, her friends and her community. She was kidnapped and sold as a sex slave by ISIS. She survived torture, starvation and repeated sexual assault. She saved her 3 young daughters and now lives in a small house somewhere in Canada. Those young girls witnessed everything that happened to their mother. They live alone in that small house thousands of miles from their ancestral home. They live alone with their memories. Their challenge is to unremember enough to rebuild their lives. They can’t do it alone, but if we don’t remember, they will have to. Remembrance is a practice. I would argue it is a spiritual one. Without memory we erase not only lives, but cultures and history. If we don’t remember we will first erase our common humanity and then eventually our own. And that’s when never again happens again and again and again.

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