On November 6th, the former premier of Ontario, the Honorable Bob Rae, moderated a panel which was held as part of the 2018 Parliament of World Religions at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
“Genocide is an event in human history which reflects humankind at its worse and reflects humankind at its best. The worst because of the level of suffering which is inflicted on millions of people. The best because there is always, in that experience, such a remarkable degree of humanity, courage and resilience.”
These were Honorable Bob Rae’s opening words at a panel titled Never Again and Again: Why Do Genocides Keep Happening? They were precipitated by an anecdote told by K.M. Greg Sarkissian, President of the Zoryan Institute, who was part of the panel. He shared the story of his family, who, in attempting to escape the Armenian genocide, were righteously saved by an Ottoman Turk. Mr. Sarkissian’s family would not have survived had it not been for this man. The other members of the panel included Holocaust survivor Max Eisen, Cambodian genocide survivor Dr. Sorpong Peou, and Rohingya refugee and youth activist Saifullah Muhammad.
Mr. Rae’s comments set the tone for the remainder of the panel, which focused on the personal experiences of the presenters, the current global climate of genocide, and their recommendations for genocide prevention. Much of the discussion pointed to the importance of education as a preventative method, emphasizing the different ways in which education can be implemented.
While it is important to learn about genocide and human rights in a formal educational setting, the panel explained how education starts in the home. Parents have the power to shape their children’s understanding and practice of empathy, sensitivity, and accountability towards others. K.M. Greg Sarkissian summarized this point in his closing remarks, stating:
“If we educate the public from a young age to recognize the signs of genocide and to understand its impact, we can develop generations who will recognize the signs and feel empowered to act. Through education, we can develop individuals who are aware and mindful citizens.”
The Zoryan Institute of Canada and its subsidiary, the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, is the first non-profit, international centre devoted to the research and documentation of contemporary issues with a focus on Genocide, Diaspora and Homeland. For more information about the Zoryan Institute and its projects, please visit one of our websites: www.zoryaninstitute.org or www.genocidestudies.org.