Remembering Elie Wiesel

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In a time when the world seems like a darker place, it is important to remember those who speak up for justice, hope and humanity.

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner and global advocate for peace and justice who died last Saturday at 87 was one of them.

Perhaps most admired for his iconic book ‘Night’, a harrowing testimony of the Holocaust, Wiesel used his voice to speak out against the genocides in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Darfur and Sudan. Wiesel declared: “if I survived, it must be for some reason, I must do something with my life.”

Unafraid to challenge world leaders and a role model for many around the world, his words ring true for all those who work tirelessly to build a better world.

In his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, Wiesel said: “When human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Whenever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the centre of the universe.”

The committee praised him as “one of the most important spiritual leaders and guides in an age when violence, repression and racism continue to characterize the world.” With divisions, violence and attacks increasingly marking international headlines, his words are as relevant today as they were in 1986 when awarded the Prize.

Not only an influential voice reminding humanity of the damage it can inflict on itself, Wiesel also stood for action. For hope, courage, determination and the power of individuals to stand against injustice and violence, and to build a better future.

It is an attitude we see in the work of our partners and the work of all the local peacebuilding organisations we map through Insight on Conflict. Whether this is the work of young peace activists stopping young people turning to extremism in Pakistan, inspirational individuals risking their lives to rescue child soldiers in DR Congo, or networks of volunteers working to tackle violence, hate speech and human rights abuses in Burundi, it is this spirit of effective local action against violence and injustice that we are proud to support.

It is perhaps his enduring message of hope that will live on in the hearts of so many. Wiesel stated: “In the midst of death, there is a human being who sacrifices his days and nights–and maybe risks his life–to save people he’d never met. Camus said, “Where there is no hope, one must invent hope.” It is only pessimistic if you stop with the first half of the sentence and just say, there is no hope. Like Camus, even when it seems hopeless, I invent reasons to hope.”

It is hope that we see in the work we support around the world, and in all those who believe in our cause. At Peace Direct, we sincerely hope that through our work we can contribute to the legacy of those like those like Wiesel, who stand unambiguously and passionately for a better world, for the benefit of all.