In human acts by Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani


Black Ribbon Day is observed every year on August 23 in the European Union and other parts of the world, including Canada and the US.

Officially known as the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, it was designated by the EU Parliament in 2009 as “a Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, to be commemorated with dignity and impartiality”. Similarly, the day is officially recognised by Canada and the United States, as Black Ribbon Day, to show commitment for the rejection of intolerance, extremism and oppression.

The European Union’s fundamental values, as I personally observe, are respect for human dignity and rights, faith freedom, democracy, good governance, equality for all and, most importantly, rule of law. These wonderful values create a strong bond among all member states. It is clear for everyone that no country that does not recognise these values can belong to the Union. The EU member states are pluralistic in nature. All government officials are required to ensure respect for others and be tolerant. Gender equality and women’s empowerment can be seen in every walk of life. The European Parliament also seeks to ensure that these principles must be reflected in the EU legislation.

Historically, the year 2009 is quite a symbolic year in the eyes of Europeans due to many facts. First, the 60th anniversary of establishing Nato and starting the cold war between the US and the USSR was marked. Second, the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall to reunite both parts of Germany was also held. According to the EU, August 23 was selected to coincide with the date of the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939. The so-called non-aggression treaty between the Stalin-led USSR and Hitler-led Nazi Germany resulted in dividing and occupation of many parts of Eastern Europe including Poland, Finland and other Baltic states by the two totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.

As a result of the said partnership, the two regimes jointly invaded Poland to start World War II. On this occasion, a large number of innocent people were massacred in the occupied territories. Millions of unarmed civilians including women and children were killed, imprisoned and subjected to violation of human rights in a horrible way. The treaty, according to the President of European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, was in fact “the collusion of the two worst forms of totalitarianism in the history of humanity.” Many people, with a hope of a better future for their families, had succeeded to escape from the occupied territories and found refuge in the US and Canada. The positive role of such hard working and talented immigrants to transform the US into today’s only superpower is an undeniable fact.

Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, in his statement on Black Ribbon Day, also paid tribute to such helpless immigrants as: “Despite all they had endured, many shared an unshakeable belief in the power of individuals to make positive change and influence society for the better. They, along with their children and grandchildren, have helped build the strong, diverse, and prosperous country we all call home.” Similarly, Canada’s Central and Eastern European communities are also playing a pivotal role in bringing attention of the international community to the plight by arranging a series of events to mark the Black Ribbon Day.

No doubt, the trauma that European people had to endure is a most tragic incident in our human history. We must feel the pain of vulnerable communities, regardless of geographical and religious affiliations. It is our moral responsibility to stand in solidarity with all those who are still struggling against state-terrorism, brutality, violence, and oppression across the world.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani

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