Archbishop pays tribute on Holocaust Memorial Day

The Archbishop of Canterbury has challenged people to move beyond their comfort zones and speak up for the “stranger” on Holocaust Memorial Day.

Dr Rowan Williams said the annual day of commemoration brought back the “appalling consequences of a situation where people don’t speak for the neighbour and don’t speak for the stranger, where people are only concerned about their own security, their own comfort zones”.

“Who do we speak for?" he said in a video message.

"Are we willing to speak for the neighbour and for the stranger, for people like us and also people who are not like us? Are we willing to take risks alongside one another?”

The Archbishop spoke about his recent visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and the people he met who had come through devastating conflict.

“I heard there something of the experience of people who have lived through genocide of another kind – people who didn’t know and couldn’t rely on the fact that there were others to speak for them.

“And yet there were some; there were signs of hope, and even the slightest difference in the middle of such a catastrophic situation is of the greatest importance – a sign of grace, a sign of God.”

Holocaust Memorial Day is held throughout the world each year on 27 January, the day in 1945 that the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration camp.

The Archbishop’s message reflected the theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day of ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’.

The Holocaust was the trigger for the founding of the Council of Christians and Jews, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.

The Archbishop spoke of his hope for the decades of “intense friendship and relationship building” between the UK’s Christians and Jews to continue into the future.

He said: “Our words may not be very loud, they may not instantly change everything, but they will change something: they will change us, they will change at least one neighbour – they will make some strangers into neighbours. And that is profoundly and eternally worth doing.”