Holocaust study results call for additional education, religious leader says

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A study released last week showing that only 22 percent of American millennials have not heard of the Holocaust is frustrating and embarrassing, but poses an opportunity for leaders in communities, in education and in churches, the leader of an international Christian denomination said today.

Rev. Elder Rachelle Brown, Interim Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches, said that while the data are alarming, the opportunity is vast.

“It’s more than a little disconcerting to see these survey data,” said Brown, the Chicago-based leader of the world’s first Christian denomination focused on the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.  “This information also underscores the need for ongoing global education about the greatest atrocity of the 20th Century, the systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews, along with smaller numbers of other ethnic groups and those deemed undesirable by the Third Reich, including homosexuals and the disabled.

“Clearly, American institutions – including ours – need to do more in educating people, particularly millennials, about what is, in essence, recent history,” Brown said.  “We must remember that the Holocaust didn’t happen in ancient times in a ‘faraway land,’ but only 75 years ago in a very modern world.

“If so many are uninformed about the Holocaust, are they also ignorant of the American Civil Rights Movement, of the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s, of the ‘ethnic cleansing’ when Yugoslavia fell apart?  Are they even aware of the millions of African-American slaves who died in bondage? We can’t let this generation – or ourselves – forget.

“For almost 50 years, MCC’s mission has been to spread the Gospel of Christianity while working for social justice, for ourselves and for all who are oppressed.  We’re going to continue that mission, but we also need to ensure we are focused on historical education, on fomenting our partnerships, and on sustaining our churches as beacons of safety.  Many of our clergy are broadly trained in these areas, and we’re going to keep that process going, not only for our ministers and leaders but for our congregations, as well.

“From the lessons this study provides, it’s clear we have to delve deeper,” Brown said. “As people of faith, we must try harder, in every community we serve, to ensure that history is not lost.  Young people are coming of age at a time when same-sex marriage is legal, incidents of discrimination are national news and HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentence, but we can’t let the relative luxury many of us enjoy overshadow the very real oppression of our ancestors nor the ongoing struggles of minority populations in virtually every society.

“Today’s young leaders are also coming of age in a time when white supremacists and professional hate groups are recruiting and mobilizing on college campuses. We have to be among those who push back.

“Today, I’ve asked our Associate Director of International Diversity and Inclusion to develop a long-term outline for how our 200-plus churches around the world can address the need for historical knowledge and education, and I’m asking for input from our denominational leaders, our clergy in the field, our members, and from anyone who has a stake in ensuring that we never, ever forget.”

For more information about the MCC or to find a nearby church, visit www.MCCChurch.org.

For related articles and information, click: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/04/12/two-thirds-of-millennials-dont-know-what-auschwitz-is-according-to-study-of-fading-holocaust-knowledge/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.56c9fc8ddc46 and https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/1.5994426.