First Minister the Rt. Hon. Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MP, MLA hosted the 11th regional Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration in Newtownabbey on Thursday, January 26.
The theme of this year’s event is ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’ and it marks the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp.
Speaking at the event held at the Theatre at The Mill at Mossley Mill, the First Minister said: “Violence and murder is a consequence of hatred and prejudice. That is why we must all speak up and speak out against these attitudes at the earliest possible opportunity.
“As we move forward together building the new Northern Ireland, we must ensure we foster a spirit of tolerance, respect and a commitment to protecting human dignity. Achieving improved community relations and creating a truly shared future is at the very heart of our work in government.”
The deputy First Minister said: “Words are powerful. With them we can heal or we can harm. Holocaust Memorial Day 2012 asks us to ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’ and to carefully consider the way we use language in person, on-line or when speaking about other people.
“I hope that this commemoration can inspire people, especially young people, to understand that they can make a difference, that one person can make a difference and that it serves as an impetus for us all to work together for a better future.”
Mayor of Newtownabbey, Alderman Billy Webb, JP said: “I would like to commend both the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and also the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust for continuing to run this annual event which serves as a stark reminder to all of us of the evils of discrimination and prejudice if left unchecked.
“Tonight is a reminder to us all to continue to stand firm against discrimination.”
Attending the event were members of the local Jewish community and representatives from a range of faith communities, ethnic minority and other groups.
Cantor Alwyn Shulman from the Dublin Jewish Community sang a prayer in Hebrew for the repose of the souls of the departed, during which the Candle in Remembrance was lit by 13-year-old Logan Kerr from Monkstown Community School. Logan was chosen for this honour as the recent winner of a schools’ poster design competition for the event which was organised by Newtownabbey Borough Council.
Keynote speaker, Holocaust survivor Mala Tribich from Piotrkow Trybunalski Poland who, as a young girl, experienced the full force of the Nazi regime held the 400-strong audience spellbound with the testimony of her survival in the concentration camps.
The combined choirs of Ballyclare Secondary School and Edmund Rice College with Michelle Baird provided light entertainment.
Commenting on the evening’s commemoration, Denis Coppel from the Belfast Jewish Community and representative to the HMD Advisory group said: “The Commitment of the population of Northern Ireland and the Office of The First Minister and Deputy First Minister to the Service on Holocaust Memorial Day was both moving and uplifting. The service was solemn, dignified and respectful and captured the hearts and souls of the audience; it was a privilege to be present.”
Holocaust Memorial Day was initiated in 2000 to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and to raise awareness and understanding of the events of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides as a continuing issue for all humanity.
Further information about the theme and Holocaust Memorial Day can be obtained from www.hmd.org.uk and www.hmdni.org.