Tuesday 23 September 2014

Oswiecim (Auschwitz), Poland – Pilgrimage of the young members of the communities of Sant’Egidio from Eastern Europe, to say no to violence and yes to coming together and peace

The young members of the communities of Sant’Egidio of Eastern Europe have recently completed a pilgrimage to the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz, in Poland.
The camp, enormous in size, was the largest of those used by the Nazis during World War II to exterminate European Jews. It has been calculated that no less than one million and a half Jews, men, women and children, died there, either immediately upon arrival at the railway ramp where the first selection took place or after months of inhuman exploitation in inconceivable living conditions.
Together with the Jews, tens of thousands of Roma were also eliminated by the German SS, together with other men and women thought to be inferior and not deserving to live. 

Eastern Europe’s younger generations do not know enough about what happened not too long ago in a continent that is overall at peace today but whose history is saturated with wars and whose future is threatened by the resurgence of conflicts.
In a silent march, young people from Russia and Ukraine (today, as is well known, these two countries are divided by the conflict that is occurring in the eastern part of Ukraine), Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Georgia, were led from the main entrance gate of the camp to the monument near the cremation ovens where two floral wreaths were placed, one in memory of Jewish victims and the other in memory of Roma victims.
The ceremony followed the assembly that took place on the previous day during which the
hundreds of young members of Sant’Egidio were able to listen to the testimony of two former Auschwitz prisoners who survived the extermination: a Romanian Jew, Mordechai Peled, and a Rom woman, Rita Prigmore.
“Say no to violence” Pope Francis said yesterday in Albania, addressing the young in the audience, “say yes to the culture of coming together and peace”. This is what these young people from Eastern Europe will be able to do best from now on, building on the memory of what has happened in the past, and living the dream of a humanity that no longer breaks up into races and peoples, but comes together in the search for peace and good.

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