Speech - Yoriko Yasukawa - Resident Coordinator of the Program of the United Nations in Costa Rica
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ANNUAL COMMEMORATION
IN MEMORY OF THE VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST
Chancellery of Costa Rica
Friday, January 24, 2014
Resident Coordinator of the Program of the United Nations in Costa Rica
Good morning esteemed Mr. Alfio Piva, First Vice president of the Republic; esteemed Mr. Enrique Castillo, Minister of External Relations; Mr. William Soto, Mr. Salomon Fachler, and other members of the Jewish community in Costa Rica, national authorities, members of the diplomatic body.
For the System of the United Nations of Costa Rica, it is an honor and privilege to participate in this Act of Commemoration of the Holocaust. It is also a great motive of satisfaction that the Act counts with the participation of the Vice president, Mr. Chancellor, and other authorities of a higher level; a display of the importance that the Costa Rican State grants to this Commemoration.
It was in 2005 in the General Assembly of the United Nations that they resolved to assign January 27 (the day the Soviet troops liberated the concentration camp of extermination, of Auschwitz in 1945), as the International Day of Commemoration of the Holocaust. By passing this Resolution, the State members sought to remember those millions of Jewish people and also those from other ethnicities, religious convictions, and other forms of life, rejected by the Nazi regime. Human beings like all of us here in this room, that suffered in an atrocious way and lost their lives due to hate and intolerance, and at the hand of human beings like us as well.
On the other hand, the United Nations wanted the Commemoration of this tragedy to be utilized to help all nations and all the citizens of the world, to advance in the building of better societies, societies that understand and act with the base of simple, and at the same time powerful, truth, articulated clearly in article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
This joyful synthesis that today seems a product of the most elemental common sense, took several centuries in becoming transformed to a validated universal norm.
When we trace back to the first manifestations of this fundamental notion of Human rights, the history that also takes us to the Pentateuch and the Talmud, to Solomon, and to Maimonides.
The comprehension of the value of the human person cannot be summarized better than when Talmud Bavli says: “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.”
I also want to rescue the Jewish precept of tzedakah, which appeals to one of the most beautiful concepts of justice, the one that has to do with the obligation of giving to each individual according to their necessities.
We hope that Costa Rica keeps enforcing an important leader in the world, in the effort of changing into reality the ideals of the Universal Declaration, and thus also the aspirations of the member States of the United Nations, by designating this day for the Commemoration of the Holocaust.
Costa Rica opted for the path of peace, democracy, and respect for Human Rights, early in its history, and has made an effort at the length of its history to guarantee the basic conditions of a life worthy for every one of its citizens. Therefore, it has been a moral reference for the world for many previous decades.
In particular, the country has welcomed the immigration of Jewish people from diverse parts of the world with open arms; and Jewish citizens of Costa Rica, and at the same time, have provided in an important way the construction of an inclusive, supportive, and prosperous society.
In addition, Costa Rica has played a very special role in the promotion of peace and dialogue in the world, making notice of its own example as a pioneer in this path. Its prominent leadership in the process of Central American peace and in the formulation and approval of the International Convention on Weapon Commerce Control are two examples that inspire us all.
The world has advanced little by little, thanks to the determined efforts of the countries and leaders committed to peace and Human Rights.
The principle of equality of rights is permeating more in all the cities of the world, and the acts of intolerance and of hate are being seen more each time as unacceptable.
At the same time, it is discouraging to see that there continue to be too many examples of how human beings are capable of being carried away by intolerance and hate, and the tragic consequences that result.
In Syria, more than 100,000 people have died since the beginning of the armed conflict in 2011. In South Sudan, thousands of people have died in the last weeks, and at the least 80,000 have had to leave their homes to escape the violence and misery. In the Republic of Central Africa close to a thousand people have died in the last weeks because of political and religious conflicts that the population of the country faces. And very recently we lost fellow workers of the United Nations in a terrorist attack against civilians in Afghanistan.
These cases tell us that remembering the Holocaust continues to be essential, as well as learning the lessons that this tragedy teaches us, precisely to not repeat them.
These countries may seem far away; that is why it is important to make an effort to remember that, just as the victims that suffer and die in Syria, in South Sudan, in the Republic of Central Africa, in Afghanistan, the aggressors in these countries, are human beings like us; because one of the lessons that the Holocaust bestows us is that the denial of the humanity of the other person allows human beings to commit atrocities, and genocide is the most extreme expression of that vision that says that certain groups of people are not part of the human family, and therefore they must be eliminated.
In this sense we really value the efforts such as the one of the Global Embassy of Activists for Peace, to maintain alive the memory of the Holocaust.
Hopefully, Costa Rica can continue enforcing an active role to promote the prevention of armed conflicts, and that they are resolved peacefully, and that violence of all types, for reasons of intolerance and discrimination among human beings, is eliminated. That is why it is also important that the Costa Rican society continues to be the example for the world.
The last report of the United Nations Development Program, in regards to cohabitation in Costa Rica, is encouraging, in the sense that it is found that the Costa Ricans have a good disposal to coexist with people of diverse cultures, ethnicities, and ways of thinking and of living, it is a people that are solitary and inclusive to unknown people.
At the same time, Costa Ricans acknowledge that life is more difficult for certain groups of people, such as the Nicaraguan immigrants, the indigenous, or the sexually diverse people; and an important percentage of these people report having been discriminated at some point in their life.
The country is also facing difficulties in the battle against poverty and the increasing inequality that puts coexisting at risk.
Today is a good day to reflect with each other, how Costa Rica can overcome these challenges to advance in the construction of a cohabitation that truly includes everyone, in which everyone counts equally. In that same way, Costa Rica could impulse the spreading of global values, of respect to differences, and brotherhood with everyone with greater strength each time.
The Jewish community, with its history terribly marked by the devastating consequences of the denial of these principles, could play a special role in this effort.
The System of the United Nations is desirous to accompany the country in this crucial effort for humanity.
Thank you very much.