‘To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all’

By Amanda Finnegan
September 29, 2006

Recently, one of the most influential writers of our time spoke at Cabrini. As the keynote speaker for the inaugural President’s Convocation, Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, used his powerful past to inspire future generations.

He has written 40 books that have been published in over 40 different languages. He speaks six languages and has been a professor for 30 years, never teaching the same class twice. Although his accomplishments are far too numerous to list here, Wiesel doesn’t define his life by them. “I do not see my life in accomplishments, I’m not playing a game,” Wiesel said.

A main talking point for Wiesel was his struggle with his faith. A devout Jew as a child, Wiesel had to grapple with the feeling that God had abandoned him during his time in the concentration camps and after. He eventually found his way back to a faith that he was persecuted and suffered unspeakable atrocities for in the past.

Although our faiths differ, everyone can relate to a time when we would question our set of beliefs. When bad things happen to good people, when natural disasters wipe out thousands of innocent lives or when an entire population is systematically exterminated simply for what they believe in.

We like to say that we have learned from the Holocaust, but since then we have seen genocide in Rwanda and currently in Darfur, the devastating loss of lives on Sept. 11 and the wars in the Middle East. We humans are still constantly persecuting and killing others because we fail to understand each other’s differences.

When we respond to violence with violence, the only thing that results is more violence. How many more Holocausts do we have to go through, how many genocides do we have to see until we finally change the way we do things? Do six million more people have to die before we take notice to the world’s injustices? “To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all,” Wiesel said.

In society, faith and God are used as scapegoats. People blame God for the misfortunes in their lives. Wiesel, however, has a different take on things.

“Only human beings can bring us to despair and only human beings can bring hope.” Wiesel said. “How long can we go on hating each other?”

We are responsible for our own lives and have a moral responsibility to the lives of others. We have to strengthen the voices of the weak and give power to the powerless. In a time where athletes and movie stars are our idols, Wiesel feels we lack a moral voice in the world today.

Youth today has become more focused on their individual needs. There are some who are fighting for change, but it’s not enough. We need to take control and fight for a better future, not only for ourselves, but for the rest of the world as well.

Wiesel doesn’t separate his work from his life. His work is his life and he works with a passion set deep inside of him. If we could find a fraction of that passion in ourselves, we might be able to make that moral voice a little louder.

Wiesel hasn’t given up on our generation, and he still has hope. If we can come together and fight together, he is certain that we can make a change.

Wiesel said, “It is possible to prevail. It is possible to win.”

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Amanda Finnegan

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