Today really deserves to be a red-letter holiday around the world. January 27th is more than worthy of this designation because we need to be reminded of very noteworthy events that took place on this date in the 20th century. It’s not as if these events are not already commemorated; they’re simply not commemorated to the extent they deserve.
Today is “Auschwitz Liberation Day”. It’s also “Holocaust Memorial Day” along with “International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust”. It’s also “Viet Nam Peace Day”. As time has passed, the major events that are commemorated take a back seat to the current problems of wars and regional conflicts that we’re reminded of each day. If commemorations are official “red-letter” holidays, they are more likely to be honored with the respect they deserve.
First of all is “Auschwitz Liberation Day”. This observation recalls when troops of the 60th Army of the First Ukrainian Front arrived at the infamous Auschwitz/Berkenau death camp and unlocked the gates. The January 27, 1945 event marked the beginning of freedom for most of the remaining prisoners of Nazi evil.
Second of all, “International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust” recognizes the pain and suffering of all the victims of Hitler’s diabolical scheme regardless of which camp they were imprisoned and regardless of the reasons their freedom was abridged.
Thirdly, “Holocaust Memorial Day” is a time to remember those people who were persecuted, suffered, and died in the fascist and Stalinist genocides. Furthermore, its scope has been expanded to include victims of other mass persecution and genocide such as happened in Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur, and Rwanda.
Fourth of all, January 27, 1973 marked the official end of the long, drawn out war in Vietnam. This conflict caused much death and suffering in Southeast Asia and contentious controversy in the West. It was on this day in 1973 that North Vietnam, the Viet Cong, South Vietnam, and the United States of America signed the Paris Peace Accords. This ended America’s involvement in the conflict.
The Viet Nam War ended the lives of more than 1,300,000 fighters from all sides. Nearly 2,600,000 US military personnel served in the region. Over 58,000 US personnel lost their lives. More than 300,000 American military members were wounded with over 75,000 of them severely disabled. Also, over 1,600 Americans went missing or otherwise unaccounted for. Often forgotten are the more than 1,000,000 civilians who perished.
There are many well-deserved Memorial and Remembrance days in various nations around the world. They pay solemn tribute to those who sacrificed themselves to the goals of ending conflict during the various wars that have taken place everywhere on Earth. It’s important to continue to commemorate all of this sacrifice.
It should also be important to celebrate peace, the movements that advocate peace, and the people who have worked towards peace on Earth. To achieve and maintain peace are no small matters.
“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”–Nelson Mandela
Real peace is not only the absence of war, real peace is when the hearts of humanity do not harbor the intent to harm and kill others. Advocates of peace through the ages have reminded us that peace is nurtured when everyone is able to contribute the best that she and he has. Peace thrives when everyone is supported. Peace continues when compassion and caring are present.
“There is a light in this world. A healing spirit more powerful than any darkness we may encounter. We sometime lose sight of this force when there is suffering, and too much pain. Then suddenly, the spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”–Sir Richard Attenborough
Peace is not just Kumbaya and unicorns. Positive attitudes and intent are certainly ingredients, but it’s the hard work of communication and negotiation that make for successful and lasting peace.
Now, as much as ever, the world urgently needs the healing wisdom from the deep well of authentic, deep peace.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the senior pastor of Lancaster Baptist College in Lancaster, California, Paul Chappell. “To replace the old paradigm of war with a new paradigm of waging peace, we must be pioneers who can push the boundaries of human understanding. We must be doctors who can cure the virus of violence. We must be soldiers of peace who can do more than preach to the choir. And we must be artists who will make the world our masterpiece.”