The shoes. The tree. The cemetery.

Posted by Kaylee K on Thursday, March 2, 2017 Under: Response

The shoes. The tree. The cemetery. These are some of my most vivid memories of our time in Budapest. Though the conference was terrific and our visits in the city were great, I was tremendously impacted by the many ways that the history of the Holocaust and the memory of the Hungarian Jews who were exterminated was marked. The bronze cast shoes along the Danube marked the place where men, women and children were shot so their bodies would fall into the river and float away. The tree was a beautiful weeping willow statue with every leaf inscribed with the name of a Jewish family who had perished at the hands of the Nazis. And the cemetery was a place on the grounds of the second-largest synagogue in the world, where the bodies were gathered of those who had frozen to death in the Jewish ghetto just beyond this graveyard. In the center stands a tall gravestone with just the words, “Mother and her children”. Frozen-to-death because of the multitude of people forced to live in an area drastically too small to house the numbers in the middle of winter. Now they are forever frozen in my memory.

This would just be a horrific, tragic piece of our history if not for the fact that it continues to happen around our world. This is what struck me so deeply while I visited these remembrances. These markers were meant to ensure we never repeated such a repulsive history. And yet we do. And we are. This is the core of the refugee crisis: that man’s inhumanity to man continues. 

And then I recall that all it takes for this to continue is for good men to stay silent. These shoes cry out to remind us not only of the feet of the Jewish people who were executed, but to challenge us to know the feet of those who are persecuted, raped, and tortured in a multitude of places around our world TODAY. The tree sparkles in the street lights as each leaf reminds us of not only families that have perished because of racism, fear, ignorance and hate; but also to speak to us of the millions more who will perish unless we choose to say, “No more.” “Never again.” “Not on our watch.”

There is a movement in Hungary to ensure that the memory of it’s government’s complicity with the Nazis not be forgotten or glossed over. It strikes me that little has changed with governments. Today, around the world, governments are being irresponsible and selfish. Turning blind eyes. Stirring their constituents up in fear. Choosing to protect the status quo rather than choosing to stand up for what is right, true and life-giving. So, then, what is to be done? 

That is where the beauty lies. Because, it is all of us, individuals, who can make a difference. Our voices can echo the voices of those who cry out from the graves in that cemetery. We can remind all of our governments of their promises to never let the holocaust happen again….or more recent promises to not let the Rwandan genocide happen again…or last year’s promises to provide safe havens to refugee children who travel alone across Europe, Syrians trying desperately to escape radical extremism that has killed and tortured so many they love, and Africans who have waited decades in refugee camps because they no longer have homes to return to. 

May we honor the memories of those who died at the hands of evil not just with plaques and platitudes, but with words and actions that come to the aid of those facing attack and extermination right now across our world. This is perhaps the most inconvenient truth there is, so I must repeat it: All it takes for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing. Make your voice heard among your community, at your place of worship, by your government leaders. That is not only the privilege but also the responsibility of all of us who still have our freedoms. 

In : Response 

Tags: persecution  voice  refugees  genocide 

Blog Authors

John and Kaylee Kolditz Kaylee founded Refugee Connect in 2008. John joined the work in 2011 as we investigated the refugee situation in Europe. But our faith and cross-cultural journeys have been a work-in-progress for many years. Much of this blog reflects that. ************************************************ We met in Austin, TX, while volunteering at a serving event at Gateway Church and have been married since 2002. Marriage, parenting and ministry all require a great deal of intentionality, humility and true reliance on God for strength, wisdom, and grace. It is a journey we are grateful to be on together. Ultimately, what matters to us is building into meaningful relationships in ways that, to the best of our ability and by God's grace, demonstrate the love and hope Jesus freely offers to us all. ************************************************ We bring both business and ministry backgrounds into our current work. John started a business in his 20's and helped build several other businesses. He has also served with churches in a variety of roles including as an assistant pastor, director of community development, and missions board member. Kaylee left her marketing career to become the global missions director for our home church in Austin, TX, then founded a local refugee ministry, and became TEFL certified (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) in order to prepare for our work overseas. We have led short-term teams domestically and internationally, and served with a variety of cross-cultural ministries. In 2008, we sensed a call to build into the church in Europe, which was also around the time when God broke Kaylee’s heart for refugees. Since then, God has continued to weave together this heart for refugees, desire to serve alongside the church, and focus on His call to Europe.

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