Gabriele Nissim speaks during the ceremony at the Garden of the Righteous of Milan
European Day of the Righteous of 6 March, approved by the European Parliament in 2012, is there to remember the people who, in the dark times of history, when the institutions were blind and passed unjust laws, assumed a moral responsibility in the face of those who was persecuted and portraited as somebody superfluous and detrimental to humanity.
The Righteous in the Holocaust, but not only them, have a peculiar trait: they take charge of the others’ suffering, when the public opinion is indifferent or even accomplice of evil. In Judaism it is customary to remember the hidden and anonymous Righteous, to underline that they act in a vacuum, when the humanity seems to have relinquished the principles of solidarity.
Such a view is apparently contradictory: the Righteous act alone due to the world’s deafness and therefore they remain hidden from the sight of those who do not want to see them, but at the same time they show us a pathway of hope, because they show us that even when things go wrong, every one of us still has the opportunity, in his small space, to push events towards a new direction.
Yesterday’s events, when the center of the public scene was dominated by totalitarian regimes, which tried to erase from the earth the so called polluting beings – be them Armenians, Jews, Tutsis or people’s enemies – seems to resurface in a new way in Europe and the rest of the world.
That weird idea of “cleansing” of humanity from the presence of the others seem to find new followers again.
There are, in facts, those who like the ISIS kill in the name of religion and want to purge the world from infidels, submit women and erase the archaeological heritage to prevent the sharing of cultures as happened in Palmyra,
But also in our Europe the idea resurfaces of a fence to separate us from the migrants who put pressure on our borders to escape wars and persecutions. Here fortunately there are no killings, but those wo raise fences in Hungary, Denmark, Austria and Macedonia and refuse to build a common policy of providing shelter –just like happened with the Jews who faced persecution in Germany and Eastern-European countries – leaves behind this idea of human solidarity that was at the basis of the manifesto of Ventotene by Altiero Spinelli and of the European project born from the debris of Second World War.
Shall we hence surrender this inexhorable drift? A Middle East in the hands of fundamentalists and Europe torn by fear and indifference?
If we abandon our pessimism and look at reality, we will realise that the big vacuum left by the European short-sightedness and the Arab countries that have given green lights to fundamentalism is being filled by thos e who we can define as “the Righteous of our times”.
Let us think of Muslim man Lassana Bathily, who hid the Jews in the fridges of the supermarket after the assault to Charlie Hebdo; Hamadi ben Abdelssalam, the guide at the Bardo Museum who rescued dozens Italian tourists during the Tunis attacks; Sonita Alizadeh, the Afghan rapper who opposed by her songs the practice of child brides; Vian Dakhil, the Yazidi deputy of the Iraqi Parliament who reported to the world about the violence on eomen and the attempt to commit a genocide against her people perpetrated by the IS.
If we then look at what happens here, we realise that there are people and entire countries that help migrants, from the Coastal Ward to the citizens of Lampedusa to the Community of Sant’Egidio.
These women and men who defend dignity at all cost would remain anonymous and unheeded if we kept on being silent. As explained by philosopher Walter Benjamin, in case there were no “pearl fishermen” bringing back to the surface these stories of humanity, the moral teachings of such events would be lost in overall indifference, ad these greatly brave people would be left alone.
This is why, on the fourth European day of the Righteous, we want all these tale sto be gathered and told. These examples can have a multiplying effect and show us that even when hope seems to fade, people can always exert what Václav Havel called the “personal power of the powerless”, to push destiny toward a new direction.