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South Holland and the Deepings MP Sir John Hayes: 'Only enduring effort will banish religious intolerance'

Reaffirming the value and sanctity of every human life creates the ultimate bulwark of compassion, so building the social solidarity required to face down hatred.

We are most alive when reaching out a hand of sacrificial love to those who are unfamiliar, guarding against the silent suspicion of strangers which, too often, starts in division and ends in disdain.

Last November, we lost one of the people I most admire – former Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. He was certainly the most gifted British religious leader of recent times.

John Hayes (43905610)
John Hayes (43905610)

Amongst prominent Anglicans only my friend, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali can compete with Jonathan’s gentle intellect and warm wisdom.

Rabbi Sacks reminded us that: ‘The battle for freedom is never finally won but must be fought in every generation.”

In this spirit, each year on January 27, we pause to remember the ‘Holocaust’, a term which emerged in the 1970s as the only word sufficiently powerful to describe the evil Nazi’s indescribably cold-blooded execution of six million Jews.

In our country, in our age, it is almost impossible to fathom the terror felt by prisoners, persecuted relentlessly for their religion.

Equally incomprehensible is the merciless cruelty inflicted by Nazi guards on fellow human beings.

The elapse of time means that wartime events are bound to become distant, which is why we must renew our commitment to maintain remembrance of all those who suffered.

To which end, throughout my time in the House of Commons, each year I have given my support to the Holocaust Memorial Trust.

But remembering is not alone sufficient.

Only through enduring effort will we finally banish religious intolerance.

The words ‘never again’ should be much more than a familiar mantra, for they speak of an enduring mission in which we can all play a part.

As an MP, I have campaigned with colleagues from across the House of Commons, alongside community leaders of all faiths, to ensure that the right to live out convictions in the public square is not only protected, but celebrated as the foundation of all other freedoms.

As free speech is being stifled by the ‘cancel culture’ and bans on speakers who might offend, it is hugely encouraging that Leeds University graduate, Inaya Folarin Iman, has established a student’s movement - Free Speech Champions.

Philosopher and poet, George Santayana once said that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

If we are to avoid reliving the most sinister events in our shared history, we must first understand them. History must not be sanitised as hard lessons are taught and learned.

How is it that Germans could persecute their compatriots who they had previously lived, laughed and loved alongside?

The answer is found in the dark distortion of human relationships.

The intrinsic desire to belong is of huge significance and can manifest itself in distinct ways.

For the most part, we seek open identities. Yet in contrast, exclusionary identity based on the permanence of race, sexuality or creed can quickly become a malevolent means of isolating ‘others’ who don’t ‘fit in’. As such, it is more important than ever to cultivate the communal duty which radiates from pride in a shared sense of place. It is not through sectional interests, but through this common sense of fraternity that gentle, generous social harmony is sustained.

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