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Lest we forget

FIRST THEY CAME ( Martin Niemöller )

"First they came for the Communists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews

And I did not speak out

Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me

And there was no one left

To speak out for me"

This poem was the poem for 27th Jan in a book I have by my bedside.

27th Jan is set aside as a day when we are asked to remember those who were caught up in the Holocaust

The poem was part of a post-war confession made in German by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Neimöller and speaks of the cowardice of certain segments of the German population as the Nazis decimated their own country. Neimöller includes himself in this group who felt that it was not their business to interfere with the Nazis.

In 1937 Neimöller was arrested by the Nazis and eventually sent to Dachau. He was freed in 1945 and became a leading voice for peace after the war.

My reading of the poem came on the back of a live news report which showed the first minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, speaking about the research and subsequent report into eight mother and baby homes, a number of former workhouses and four Magdalene laundries which operated in Northern Ireland over a 68-year period from 1922-1990.

More than 10,500 women entered mother and baby homes Around a third of those admitted were aged under 19 and most were from 20-29.

A number were the victims of sexual crime, including rape and incest.

Mrs Foster said, “The research report is only the start of a process to allow the long-silenced voices of women and their children to be heard.

“For too long they have carried a burden of shame and secrecy.

Too often their treatment from those who were in positions of power and trust caused them real harm and a lifetime of trauma.”

As I listened to Arlene Foster, and read the words of the poem, “First they came “I felt my heart breaking and all I could think was.......................

“God have mercy”

Christ have mercy

God have mercy”

God forgive me and forgive us for all the times we have remained silent when we should have spoken out for victims of injustice and abuse.

And may God give me, give us fresh courage and strong voices to speak up, to reach out, to walk alongside those who day in day in day out are victims of prejudice and hate.



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