What does it mean not to stand by?

Britain is admired around the world as a beacon of justice, tolerance and social stability.

It’s a reputation that’s been established over hundreds of years. More importantly, it’s the reality of life in modern Britain.

One Nation – where people from different countries can settle, integrate and provide for their families.

Our country is enriched by its diversity, and the vast majority of people get along, but recent statistics point to some worrying signs.

While overall levels of hate crime appear to be falling – there has been sharp rises in both antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate crime.

The vast majority of us are neither victims nor perpetrators of these crimes, but that does not excuse us of responsibility. Turning away from people who are being subjected to abuse can be all too easy. You don’t know them. It’s not your problem.

But turning away and not getting involved is almost as bad as the abuse itself, because it is a tacit acknowledgement that this kind of behaviour is ok.

When hate is left unchallenged it begins to fester. Its poison infects everything and everyone it touches.

That’s why since 2011 my Department has provided more than £50 million to bring people together, to stop the poison spreading. Projects like the Anne Frank Trust, Show Racism the Red Card and Remembering Srebrenica – all of which educate tens of thousands young people about the ultimate consequences of hate.

Each year on the 27 January we remember the devastation that hate left unchecked can bring.

Holocaust Memorial Day allows us to reflect on the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and the millions killed in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur.

The best way we can honour the survivors of those atrocities is to use their tragedy to shape our lives today. And to learn from the people that didn’t just stand by.

People like Captain Mbaye Diagne.

Captain Diagne was a Senegalese military officer and UN military observer during the Rwandan Genocide. He risked his own life for the Tutsi men, women and children that were faced with certain death.

Disobeying orders he went time and again into conflict zones to rescue innocents, ferrying them to safety, hiding them in his car – sometimes with just a blanket for cover and cigarettes for a bribe – however he could. He saved thousands of lives.

Or Robert Smallbones, the British Diplomat who served as Consul General in Frankfurt before the start of the Second World War.

After the events of Kristallnacht, Mr Smallbones devised a new visa scheme to make sure that Jewish families were given special visas, without publicity and hidden from parliament.

As many as 48,000 people were thought to have got out through because of his paperwork.

The actions of these men are inspirational. But each and every one of us has the capacity to make a difference, however small our contribution.

It can be as simple as recording an act of hate. Smart phone footage means the abuse that would previously have been witnessed by just a few bystanders can now be shared with the police, put online and the perpetrators caught.

It is the duty of any government to protect its citizens and antisemitism and hate crime of any sort are completely unacceptable in our society. They are an affront to our British values of tolerance, respect and fairness.

The UK now has some of the strongest laws to protect people from violence and bigotry and I can assure you we won’t stand by and let the rule of law be undermined at the expense of British Jews and Muslims.

But when faced with hate it is up to each and every one of us to decide: are we going to stand by, or are we going to confront it?

What are you going to do?

About the Author
Baroness Susan Williams is the Conservative Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Related Topics
Related Posts