Genocide survivor helps mark Holocaust Memorial Day
26 January, 2017
An orphaned survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide has helped Bridgend County Borough Council mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2017 with a special ceremony commemorating the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.
In partnership with Bridgend College, the annual event was held in the Sony Theatre to make a sincere and public commitment to remember the millions who have been murdered in the Holocaust and the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day theme is ‘How can life go on?’ asking people across the world to think about what happens after genocide and of our own responsibilities in the wake of such a crime.
Special guest was Antoinette Mushimiyimana, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, where approximately one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered in just 100 days. Antoinette spoke about her experiences during and after the genocide and how she managed to rebuild her life, demonstrating that life can go on.
Sadly, during the genocide, the survivor lost the majority of her family, becoming an orphan at the age of eleven years old. She witnessed killings and assaults before escaping certain death by hiding for the remainder of the genocide.
Coming face-to-face with the perpetrator who killed her own mother, Antoinette decided to forgive him, saying that she needed to do it so she could move forward with her life.
Antoinette now dedicates her life to raising the awareness of genocide in the UK and is an active advocate of reconciliation and justice - her focus being on creating peaceful environments in every society.
This year, Alun Rees and Ceri Anne Thomas from Bridgend College led the ceremony, whilst Olivia Hopper read Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel’s life story.
As part of the ceremony, the traditional ‘Seven Statements of Commitment’ were read by prominent members of the community, and Rabbi Michoel Rose from Cardiff United Synagogue provided a Jewish prayer.
In addition, a candle of remembrance was lit by Mayor of Bridgend County Borough Council, Councillor Reg Jenkins and a twenty second silence was held to remember all those lost in the Holocaust and in the other genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
Father Tim McGrath from St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church recited ‘The Creed of a Holocaust Survivor’ - a poem written by Alexander Kimel, a Holocaust survivor. To close the event, Bridgend College Performing Arts students, Olivia Hopper and Alun Rees performed ‘Somewhere’ from West Side Story.
Guests represented a wide cross-section of the community and included the police, religious and community groups, politicians, schools and college students. For the first time in several years, members of the public were provided with the opportunity to attend the commemorative event.
Bridgend County Borough Council’s Leader, Councillor Huw David, said: “Every year we mark Holocaust Memorial Day as a sign of respect and remembrance. We aim to commemorate the millions of victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, honour all survivors and commit to tackling prejudice, discrimination and racism that still exists today.
“Holocaust Memorial Day is a powerful reminder of what hatred, discrimination and racism can lead to. It’s a reminder that, more than 70 years after the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps, we can still see genocide, the conscious and deliberate effort of one group to eliminate another.
“We were privileged to welcome Rwandan genocide survivor, Antoinette Mushimiyimana as our special guest. Her life is an inspirational story of survival, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Antoinette has used her experiences to educate and create awareness of genocide, striving for peace among communities in every society, and advocating reconciliation.
“Her awe-inspiring talk about her life led to a standing ovation from the audience. After such a haunting experience, it is admirable how Antoinette managed to rebuild her life and is now helping and educating others.
“Our annual commemoration provides an opportunity to reflect and learn lessons from the past and to help ensure that these horrendous crimes are never forgotten. As a council, we pledge to continue to promote diversity and equality within Bridgend County Borough.”
For more information about the Holocaust visit www.hmd.org.uk, or to view videos of Bridgend County Borough’s HMD event visit YouTube and search ‘Bridgend CBC’.