On Tuesday evening, I was honoured to have had the opportunity to sponsor this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day event in the Scottish Parliament.
Each year Holocaust Memorial Day encourages us to remember the scars that have been left by genocide across the world.
The International Holocaust Memorial Day is marked on the 27th January, which notes the date of the liberation of the largest concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau towards the ends of the Second World War and remembers the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust and those millions who were killed under Nazi persecution and repression.
The date also recognises and commemorates the genocides that were allowed to follow in in other parts of the world over the past half century in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
The Holocaust threatened the fabric of civilisation and the killings that followed remind us that we must resist genocide every day. Challenging the language of hate and prejudice is crucial and something that we must seek to stamp out wherever we see it.
Sometimes events like the Holocaust may seem remote or distant. This is why the outreach work of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust is so vital.
Through first-hand accounts and learning about the impact that genocide has had on countless lives helps to put the suffering and horror of these events into context.
My own experiences of this has been through my involvement with Remembering Srebrenica Scotland, which has enabled me to meet with many of the survivors of the Bosnian genocide and speak with those who continue to live with the ramifications.
I’ve visited Srebrenica where so many of the killings took place, a genocide that happened within my own lifetime, only a few hours by plane away from Edinburgh, where over 8,000 men and boys were murdered because they were Muslim.
This was the single largest mass murder in Europe since the end of the Second World War. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust continue to collect and tell the life stories from survivors and people who were murdered as it provides a powerful and unique insight into the experiences of those who have faced persecution and genocide.
Sharing testimony is one of the most powerful things we can do.
It is therefore a privilege that we heard from Janine Webber BEM as the survivor speaker who shared her own testimony of Nazi persecution.
Janine spoke for 45 minutes sharing her immensely powerful and moving experience, which has left a lasting impact on me and the hundreds of others in attendance who hung on her every word.
You can read more about Janineâ€™s incredible story of survival and endurance against the odds on the Holocaust Memorial Trust website here: https://www.het.org.uk/survivors-janine-webber
Over the past couple of years, extremism on the left and the right has been on the rise in Europe, and across the world.
Globally there is undoubtedly instability and a rise in division, hate and prejudice, which make events such as Holocaust Memorial Day even more important to recognise.
Scotland has a proud reputation of being a diverse and outward looking place that is welcoming to everyone no matter your background, and we must do everything we can to keep it that way.
If any person or group does not feel welcome here, it should be a stark reminder that we need to continue fighting for and championing a more tolerant, open and equal society for all.
We must continue to break down barriers and condemn all forms of discrimination wherever we see it.
Across Scotland today people will come together to remember the Holocaust, learn more about the past and take action to create a safer future.
Together, we bear witness for those who endured genocide, and honour the survivors of all those whose lives were changed beyond recognition.