Holocaust Memorial Event

Holocaust Memorial Day was marked around the country on 27th January 2020. Here is a report from a Year 12 pupil of an event held at his school:

“This year, St Mark’s was proud to host the London Borough of Hounslow’s Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration. The event was attended by several local dignitaries included the Mayor of Hounslow, Tony Louki; Steve Curran, the Council leader; local MPs, faith leaders from across the borough and 150 students from St Mark’s.

As the guests arrived, they were accompanied by the noble sounds of Elgar’s Nimrod, wonderfully played by the string section from St. Mark’s orchestra. Then, people’s attention turned with the processional entrance of the Mayoral party. After all guests had re-taken their seats the Mayor made his opening speech. In his speech they Mayor addressed the importance of the day, while emphasising the power of togetherness and the strength this brings to a society. After the Mayor’s speech, Reverend Richard Frank, Vicar of All Souls Church, Isleworth, took the opportunity to thank all guests present for being there and further emphasised the importance of the day. In commemorating the Holocaust and other genocides, “We count what needs counting”, Rev Frank movingly intoned.

This was followed by a powerful performance, by a group of Year 9 Drama students combining words, music and movement, of the poem Tormented Hearts by Misba Sheikh which was written in response to the atrocities committed in Srebrenica in 1995.

Next up was the guest speaker for the event, Natalie Cummings. Natalie’s talk was absolutely mesmerising as all eyes were glued to her for the entirety of her speech. At the beginning of her speech Natalie presented the audience with some family context. Natalie, stated that her father was of Jewish heritage and violin tutor to the Tsar’s children in Russian in 1917 when they were forced to flee the Bolsheviks and endure a lengthy, daring walk across Western Russia in order to escape. The walk lasted nearly a year and they were phased with hazardous conditions and lack of basic necessities such as food and drink for the entirety of the walk to Minsk. Upon arrival to Minsk, Natalie’s dad and her family were met by other Jews who told them not to enter the village or they would be faced with harsh punishments. After this the family were left with no choice but to look for safety elsewhere.

Eventually they would be given the opportunity to come to England and the family started their new life in Leeds. The family settled down and found comfort in the form of their music, more importantly the violin as Natalie’s grandfather, father and auntie were all successful violinists. Her auntie Rosa was especially successful. In 1935 Rosa was invited to perform with the Berlin Philharmonic. Of course she gratefully accepted the offer, however this would have disastrous consequences for Rosa. In 1938 when the Nazi’s reign of terror was gathering pace, Rosa was arrested and brought to a small concentration camp where she was later transferred to Auschwitz. Upon arrival Rosa’s pride and joy her violin was confiscated by a Nazi officer. Rosa believed that she would never see that violin again. To her disbelief after a few days she was asked to perform in the Auschwitz orchestra who played to those coming into the camp in an attempt to lure them into a false sense of hope. Due to playing in the orchestra Rosa’s violin was given back to her and she managed to survive in Auschwitz all the way up to its liberation.

Unfortunately, Rosa did not live for long after, although she lived long enough to tell Natalie her story and now her story will live on through Natalie and future generations through Natalie’s own talks and her recounting of the family history in her book, The Fiddle. Natalie’s powerful talk, was followed by questions from the assembled students.

After all events had concurred Reverend Frank introduced closing moment of contemplation where all guests participated in a 2 minutes’ silence with candles lit in memorium in front of a very evocative painting of the memorial site in Srebrenica, specially painted for the occasion by the Art department.

The closing speech was made by Council Leader, Steve Curran, who further emphasised the importance not just of commemoration but learning from the events of history to remain vigilant against a current re-emergence of prejudice and ethnic hatred. His words “not only do we need to stand together, but we also need to act together” beautifully summed up the overall message of living together in a peaceful society where nobody is discriminated, thus bringing to close a wonderful ceremony.”

Cormac Divers, Year 12 Pupil, St Mark’s Catholic School, Hounslow

Science, Justice, Faith and Care for the Earth – update

We still have tickets left for this event at the Cruciform Building, UCL on 6 February at 7 pm.

The event is free and open to the public, but please r.s.v.p. on Eventbrite.

We’re joining the Newman House University Chaplaincies for an evening panel discussion on the ramifications of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on climate change.

Open discussion and reception will follow.

Speakers will be as follows:

Professor Clare Grey, Cambridge

Materials Chemist, Lithium Air Battery project leader

http://www.ch.cam.ac.uk/person/cpg27

Rev. Dr. Martin Poulsom SDB, Heythrop

Creation Theologian

http://www.heythrop.ac.uk/staff/dr-martin-poulsom-sdb

Professor Anne Power, LSE

Climate Change and Social Policy

http://www.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/Experts/profile.aspx?KeyValue=anne.power@lse.ac.uk

See also www.twitter.com/LSEhousing

Richard Solly, London Mining Network

Head of an advocacy group for London Miners

See www.twitter.com/LondonMining

Science, Justice, Faith and Care for the Earth

On 6 February, we’re joining the Newman House University Chaplaincies for an evening panel discussion on the ramifications of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical on climate change.

Open discussion and reception will follow.

The event is free and open to the public, but it is essential to r.s.v.p. on Eventbrite.

Speakers will be as follows:

Professor Clare Grey, Cambridge

Materials Chemist, Lithium Air Battery project leader
http://www.ch.cam.ac.uk/person/cpg27

Rev. Dr. Martin Poulsom SDB, Heythrop

Creation Theologian
http://www.heythrop.ac.uk/staff/dr-martin-poulsom-sdb

Professor Anne Power, LSE

Climate Change and Social Policy
http://www.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/Experts/profile.aspx?KeyValue=anne.power@lse.ac.uk
See also www.twitter.com/LSEhousing

Richard Solly, London Mining Network

Head of an advocacy group for London Miners
See www.twitter.com/LondonMining

J&P Youth News – December

The following is an archive copy of the J&P Youth Newsletter for the month of December.

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Hello again from the Justice and Peace Commission in the Diocese of Westminster!

As in my prior two mailings I have added a few people who might find this of interest; if you do not wish to be on this mailing list or if you know of someone who would like to join it, please drop me a line on …

[[From the Commission]]

 
We have two important dates coming up: one is advance notice for a Laudato Si’ event in co-ordination with the Newman House chaplaincies, on 6th February. For more information and tickets, see http://laudatosiucl.eventbrite.com
 
The other is our annual Open Day, here at our office in South Tottenham on 18th January. Please come along and meet some of the many individuals and agencies who work with us. (I could use a student volunteer to help me out with some things around this, if anyone is up for it!)
 
My diary has been very full recently with visits to secondary schools and a number of engagements around Justice and Peace activism for Migrants, Refugees, Palestine, and Climate Change. I won’t bore you with all the details, except to note how enthused I was visiting the Justice and Peace Committee formed by the students at Bishop Challonerin Tower Hamlets, which really was the highlight of the month! They have chosen Refugees at their core focus of interest and already have some great plans to move forward.
 
To supplement what I already told them, there are a number of ways students and young people can get involved in helping refugees to greater hope, better lives, and to find a home in our changing world:
  • Though there is much to critique (understatement?) in the recent report on migrant communities from Dame Louise Casey, I think we can all agree that English language learning is a very important resource, and it is unfortunate that the UK Government has cut funding on this over the last few years. There is a great shortage of English language instructors both at home and worldwide. Students and young people who want to volunteer for a migrants or refugees charity can easily get involved in English language learning support with no prior training. Looks great on a c.v. and can really inspire students to get involved in teaching, or to study a new language themselves.
  • CAFOD has a great campaign to take written messages of hope to refugeesaround the world. You can add a digital message here: http://cafod.org.uk/Pray/Year-of-Mercy/Send-a-message-of-hope . Or, contact Cafod UK or myself for printed cards such as the one pictured in the video. They also have a number of resources for children and students, organised by topic and level/key stage.
  • Purchasing Christmas Cards from ACN ( http://www.acnuk.org/products.php/category/12/christmas-cards ) and other agencies can help fund refugees this Christmas, many of whom may lack a home or a family. And it’s always worth remembering the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, Jesus’ own search for refuge.
  • Advent liturgies regularly explore themes of justice, right judgement, and journeying with God as a civil society. Have a quick look over the Readings for the Sundays of Advent, or even just the Readings of the Day, for some inspiration!
  • Contact Secours Catholique (Caritas France) if you would like to get in touch with some of the many Anglophone refugees in France, many of whom have British connections: http://www.secours-catholique.org/
In Spring (mid-April?) I am hoping to organise, with the help of some of our partner agencies, a gathering & planning event for students and catechists to get them inspired for Refugee Week (which is in late June). If you have a venue which might be suitable for this, please get in touch. We would need a meeting hall which could comfortably fit ~100 or so people, and possibly one or two sizeable secondary rooms for workshops (for art and/or theatre).
 
Please let me know if you can help with any of the above.
 
[[From the Top]]
 

“Family time” for everyone else is “busy time” for the clergy, and the Pope is no exception! Keep an eye out for messages in support of the poor and homeless this Christmas, especially during Christmas homilies from Pope Francis and Cardinal Vincent.

The December Pope Video is on Child Soldiers: very topical for J&P and very stirring for young viewers. http://thepopevideo.org/

 
As you may have been aware from the news in spring, groundwork is being laid for a potential papal encyclical on “Just Peace“, as a replacement for Just War Theory. Though still in the very early stages of debate, Pax Christi has organised deliberations and is very well versed on the progress. Get in touch with them for more information. coordinator@paxchristi.org.uk
 
[[From around the Diocese]]
 
On the theme of Pax Christi, myself and others from around the Diocese attended their Advent service yesterday evening (6 December) which was a great success. I sensed the age profile is very advanced, however! If you are interested in Pax’s work and would like them to speak at your school, parish, or community, or provide resources for a Peace-themed assembly/talk/event, contact Matt Jeziorski on education@paxchristi.org.uk
 
As always, follow us on our website: www.westminsterjp.wordpress.com
…and on facebook: www.fb.co/WestminJP
…for more updates, news, and events!
 
May the peace of Christ be with you all, in this Advent and Christmas season!
 
Yours,
 
Edmund T. Dean
Youth Worker, Justice and Peace Commission, RC Diocese of Westminster