Today – on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – we stand together to remember all those murdered because of their identity. People just like us – with the same hopes and dreams – deemed worthless by brutal authoritarian regimes.
Our namesake, Monsieur René Cassin, was a French Jew. He lost 26 members of his family to the Nazi Holocaust. Today, we remember them. And we remember Cassin. He escaped to London when the Germans invaded France. Condemned to death in absentia by the Nazis, he became involved in the slow but determined effort to turn the tide on intolerance and hatred, and to assert a vision of a better world.
Human rights were key to that vision, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which René Cassin co-authored – was the first global expression that ‘all members of the human family’ had ‘inherent dignity’ and ‘equal and inalienable rights’. The Declaration inspired the development of the human rights laws that protect all of us today.
The Declaration itself was not a law. Instead it was something perhaps more powerful – a clear statement of overarching principle, as set of codified values. That human beings were more important than states; that an assault on differece is an assault on all of humanity; that each and every person murdered at Auschwitz mattered more than the Nazi regime; that never again would the world stand aside and allow governments to slaughter and oppress their own people.
Today, intolerance and nationalism are on the rise worldwide. So, now is the time to remember the lessons of history, and to reassert the principles behind the Universal Declaration.
That’s why René Cassin – as the Jewish human rights charity named in honour of the Universal Declaration’s author – is standing together in solidarity with the Uyghur Muslims whose identity and culture is being systematically obliterated by the Chinese government. Today, between one and three million Uyghurs are being held in internment camps; their Mosques bulldozed; their language banned.
René Cassin is working with the World Uyghur Congress to pressure our government and the wider global community to condemn China’s actions and demand that it treats its minorities with respect. In 2020, let’s all stand together to say ‘Never again!’.