David Matas' speech to the International Society for Human Rights, Bern, Switzerland, January 16, 2010, on receipt of the Swiss Section Human Rights Prize:
Four messengers come to Job, one to tell of the loss of his oxen and asses with their attendants; the next to tell of the death of his sheep and shepherds; the third to tell of slaying of all of his camels with the servants; and the fourth to tell of the death of all his sons and daughters. Each messenger says: "I only am escaped alone to tell thee." These are also the words of Ishmael, in Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick, at the end of his tragic tale of Captain Ahab and the ship Pequod.
Strictly speaking, I am not a survivor of the Holocaust, since all four of my grandparents came to Canada before World War I. Yet, in a very real sense, every Jewish person is a survivor of the Holocaust. Six million Jews were killed. All Jews were targeted. It is only the fortunes of war that gave an Allied rather than an Axis victory in World War II. If the Axis powers had won, not I, not one Jewish person would be alive today.
I have escaped to tell. If we can give any meaning at all to the meaningless slaughter of so many millions of innocents, we must learn the lessons of the Holocaust. To say "Never again" is easy. To make it happen is not so easy. The reality is that since World War II, genocide has happened again and again, not to Jews, but to Cambodians, to Hutus, to Tutsis, to Bosnians, to Somalis and now to practitioners of Falun Gong.
One of the lessons I have attempted to draw from the Holocaust is never to accept in silence gross violations of human rights, wherever they occur. The Holocaust would not have happened if people everywhere had protested gross violations of human rights anywhere as soon as they occurred.
I have engaged in human rights work to act on this lesson, to join the human rights struggle on this front. In fighting on this front, I have had to combat an enemy that prowls throughout the human rights battlefield, a horsemen of our very own human made apocalypse, the horseman of helplessness.
There is an all too prevalent sense that human rights violations are so massive, and so far away, that nothing can be done about them. It is my view not only that individuals in countries like Canada far away from gross and flagrant violations can have a positive impact on respect for human rights. It is the voice of individuals around the world which is most likely to lead to respect for human rights.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Epoch Times.