In times like these, history’s lessons can provide vital resources — offering warnings for the present and hope for the future. We need both more than ever.For example, this year marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. In 1948, in the wake of the Holocaust and against the backdrop of the catastrophe of World War II, the world’s leading nations recommitted to the universal idea of human rights; accordingly, the United Nations adopted the General Declaration of Human Rights.
More than 50 years ago in the United States, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired a nation gripped in the civil rights struggle with the concept of love as a cure for fear and hate. As he put it in one of his sermons: “Hate is rooted in fear, and the only cure for fear-hate is love.”
Today, fear is again taking hold. The coronavirus pandemic has created this generation’s great challenge. It has put health care systems under pressure and economies on the verge of collapse. These events have triggered enormous insecurity and make people susceptible to conspiracy theories, stereotyping and scapegoating. With a growing sense of powerlessness, individuals and nations alike have become vulnerable to hate. It’s time for our leaders to resist this age-old fear and boldly champion the cause of human rights and human dignity, once again.
The call to conscience is especially urgent to make now, in the age of coronavirus.
Look up a past pandemic in the history books, and you will quickly find one nationality or minority group that some people blamed for its spread. For the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages, it was Jews. For typhoid, the Irish. During the 1918 flu pandemic, the Spanish. More recently, HIV produced ugliness toward the LGBTQ community and Haitian Americans, swine flu toward Mexicans, Ebola toward Africans, and SARS toward Asian communities. Read more..