Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) spoke on Sunday at the preview and ribbon cutting of a new exhibit commemorating the victims and survivors of three different genocides, at the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education (Chhange).
The exhibit, “Journeys Beyond Genocide: The Human Experience,” is housed on the campus of Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, NJ. It is a dynamic exhibition featuring powerful testimonies of local Holocaust and genocide survivors, and showcases their archival items. Over 100 people attended the VIP preview of the exhibit, which covers three previous genocides: the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi people in Rwanda.
“The promise of the genocide convention remains unfulfilled,” said Smith, who in 2000 held the first-ever U.S. hearing on the Armenian Genocide of 1915, as part of an attempt to pass a Congressional resolution recognizing the atrocities committed against the Armenians as a genocide. “The goals of the genocide convention of 1948 are to prevent and punish genocide. Prevent. We have failed. We need to do more,” Smith said on Sunday.
He went on the say that, “It is my hope that exhibits such as this will educate and hopefully sensitize more and more people, including our young people, to realize that they have a stake in this.”
The Center for Holocaust, Human Rights & Genocide Education at Brookdale Community College was founded in 1979. It seeks to educate students and residents in the area about the history of genocide and human rights, and has previously hosted genocide survivors as volunteers and as speakers.
“We do not study the past because we love old things. We study the past because it can serve as a compass to help us understand the world in which we live today, and to navigate our way to the world to which we seek to give shape,” Dr. Debórah Dwork, Rose Professor of Holocaust History at Clark University and Founding Director of the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, stated. “Journeys Beyond Genocide: The Human Experience is just such a compass.” Dr. Dwork helped put the exhibit together.
Included among the intimate reflections and personal items on display at the exhibit is a quote that Smith made on April 12, 2015, at the opening of Chhange’s 100th anniversary commemorative exhibit on the Armenian genocide.
“Genocide is the most terrible crime a people can undergo, or another people can commit. It must never be forgotten–to forget it would be to dull our consciences and diminish our own humanity. The campaign to deny this [Armenian] genocide. . .keeps the Armenian genocide a burning issue and prevents much needed healing of old wounds. . . .We must write and speak the truth so that generations to come will not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Only 20 Nations around the world have recognized the Armenian Genocide. That includes Canada as well as eleven EU countries. . . . Conspicuously absent from the list of nations that have officially recognized the Armenian Genocide is the United States of America. . . .When political leaders fail to lead or denounce violence, the void is not only demoralizing to the victims but silence actually enables the wrongdoing. . .History has taught us that silence is not an option. We must do more.”