It was a great honour to share my personal story as a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau when I visited Hong Kong and Macao as a guest of the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre at the beginning of this year. I was very impressed with both cities and delighted to meet so many friends in each. I am happy to tell you that I am healthy and well, back in the UK after having to cut short my speaking tour in the USA. At the time I thought that I had travelled too much considering my age but now I wish I could continue my important work.
Since my visit in January the world has entered an extremely difficult and unprecedented time with the spread of Covid19. In addition to the virus and its terrible toll on public health, it is also exposing highly troubling fissures in society. The climate of fear created by the virus has led to increased acts of racism, discrimination and even killings of people from different backgrounds. I have been appalled and saddened to hear about prejudice against Chinese people, Asians, Black people and other ethnic minorities in Europe, the USA, Australia and elsewhere. Antisemitism and discrimination against different religions are also on the rise again in many places. Times like these seem to invite conspiracy theorists and the ill-intentioned to come crawling out of the woodwork.
The last thirty-five years of my life have been devoted to helping prevent further atrocities from occurring.
During my Hong Kong and Macao visit I spoke to thousands of students and community members from a diverse range of backgrounds. It was a privilege to share my story in schools and universities, cultural centres and religious institutions and I was truly touched by the curiosity and warmth of those I met. Speaking about such traumatic experiences it is difficult even after all these years but sadly it remains just as relevant. Nonetheless I do so in the hope that it will cultivate understanding and empathy among those who listen. I firmly believe we must all embrace these qualities, as well as a sense of unity, as we navigate this global health crisis and it impact.
In closing I also want to express deep appreciation to the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre for all of its work to advance Holocaust education and promote tolerance. These efforts are now more essential than ever.
Elisabeth Ravasio joins me in wishing you and your loved ones health and peace in this challenging times,