Martin Buber said, "One gains power over the nightmare by calling it by its name."
This year marks several significant anniversaries in world history and allows us a rare opportunity to compare global events and their outcomes, illustrating what happens when we call evil by its name.
The Second World War ended 70 years ago. As Allied troops poured into Nazi-occupied Europe, the world was exposed for the first time to the unspeakable crimes committed in concentration camps. We came to terms with a newly coined word - genocide.
What is interesting to note, however, is that this was far from the first time that Jews had suffered crimes against humanity, but it was the first time that we called it by its name. For more than 1,000 years Jews were persecuted in Europe. When the Black Plague happened, many blamed the Jews and took their frustrations out on them. Pogroms were a long-standing part of European history. Even in the days leading to the Holocaust, Jews were persecuted the world over, and few countries would accept Jewish immigrants fleeing from Nazi terror. Though the Holocaust took place in Nazi-occupied Europe, everyone who perpetuated discrimination toward Jews was guilty, and we knew it. It was only when our eyes were opened to the horror of the concentration camps that we realized we needed to change. We have done so, and we have built a much better world, a place where anti-Semitism is seen for the crime that it is. We are one step closer to "never again."
This year also marks 100 years since the beginning of the Armenian Genocide, which happened under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. What is most significant about this event is that though Armenians proudly recognize the sacrifices of their ancestors and thrive in business, entertainment, the arts and education all over the world, the perpetrators of these crimes against humanity remain officially hidden. The government responsible for the extermination of Christians in Armenia and throughout their empire, the Ottomans, ceased to exist at the end of the First World War. The myth that this never happened continues to be taught today, and it is illegal to discuss it as a genocide in certain jurisdictions.
What is significant is that the persecution and extermination of Christians in the territories that once formed the Ottoman Empire continues to this day. The evil has never been called by its name, and just as persecutions of Jews continued throughout Europe for generations, these crimes against humanity continue as well. If we want an end to this violence, we must begin by calling the nightmare by its name - genocide.
We can look around the world today and see that this same pattern holds, from Canada to the Congo. Where the evil is not named, the crimes against humanity continue. Where truth is spoken, healing begins. If we want a more peaceful world, we must call evil by its name and embrace truth, regardless of how uncomfortable that may be.