A PLEA for people of all ages to do their bit in the fight for peace was at the heart of Saddleworth Peace Group’s Holocaust Memorial.
The group held their annual Peace Vigil to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Saturday, January 28 outside the Methodist Church in Uppermill Square.
Despite rain, locals gathered for the occasion, which included a 15-minute silence to remember victims from the Holocaust, as well as subsequent mass killings in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
The day was designated by the United Nations and marks the anniversary of the day in 1945 when the largest concentration camp, Auschwitz Birkenau, was liberated.
Speaking at the event were special guests the Mayor of Oldham, Councillor Derek Heffernan, MP Debbie Abrahams, and Joe Ellison, a year 11 pupil at Saddleworth School.
16-year-old Joe said: “Whatever age we are we have to make sure these atrocities are always remembered. We need to teach people this must never happen again.
“As a history student, I was really privileged to have the opportunity to witness live streaming of an interview with a Holocaust survivor.
“It was a really humbling experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.
“But it is not just about the Nazi Holocaust, we must remember other genocides as well such as in Cambodia and Bosnia.
“If we think this only happened before we were born or in the past we need to remember Darfur in 2003 and Syria right now.
“It is easy for people to run a blind eye to what is happening in other parts of the world but it is not something we should ignore.”
He also pointed to an increasing number of hate crimes in the UK, with figures rising by 20 per cent in London alone last year.
And he urged individuals to write a pledge and place it on the Peace Group’s memorial tree in the Methodist Church to make a positive change in the local community.
Cllr Derek Heffernan, known as Oldham’s Peace Mayor, reflected on the anniversary’s theme this year of ‘how can life go on’.
He said: “We must not remember just the victims but also how they lived, their cultures and differences.
“We must support them in their lives and each ask ourselves what we can do to help. It is the job of individuals, communities and nations.”
Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, added: “I feel it is so important we come together like this to remember people who have lost their lives in atrocities across the world
“I feel we are at a brink. Fear, blame and hatred are replacing kindness, humanity and hope. Political leaders of such influence are pushing this message of hatred.
“My dear friend Jo Cox was murdered not far from here for believing in a free world. All of us need to redouble our efforts to overcome hate.”
Saddleworth Peace Group is a secular organisation that aims to promote peace at the community and global level. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org