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Man's "Never again" resolve, after witnessing the unimagined horrors of the Jewish Holocaust during World War II, remains frequently challenged and unfulfilled. There have been some significant strides but we can hardly declare the sacred promise made by man to safeguard living beings from future such unconscionable experiences as the Holocaust a reality yet. This week a great champion for the cause of human rights in the twentieth century, Simon Wiesenthal, passed away in Vienna. His life and legacy give us pause to reflect and remember his contribution to humanity, especially the Jewish people.

Throughout history, there have been religious zealots and ruthless despots who unleashed terror campaigns; indiscriminate persecution; and forced calculated ethnic and cultural purges. There also have been some extraordinary voices of conscience, spiritual leaders, and courageous souls, who by their tireless advocacy, righteous struggle, and personal sacrifice and suffering, raised human awareness of the fundamental rights and dignity of all living beings. One of the great champions and martyrs for this cause, the Ninth Sikh Guru, Teg Bahadur, affirmed the sanctity and inalienable humanity of precious freedoms by his supreme sacrifice in 1675 at Chandni Chowk, Delhi in defense of universal human and sacred rights and inspired his followers to rise in self-defense.

In recent decades, international and regional human rights commissions, peace and justice organizations, and world leaders, through and outside the United Nations, have set down some defining markers and developed hopeful guidelines towards the goal of assuring and preserving basic rights of all citizens. Some illustrious figures have challenged those in authority to respect, strengthen, and enforce declarations on this critical and universal human issue. They include: the Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal; apostle of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Nobel Peace Laureate The Dalai Lama, Rev. Desmond Tutu, Dr. Elie Wiesel (another Holocaust survivor), President Nelson Mandela; and many others.

Yet since World War II, humanity has continued to witness incidents of appalling transgressions, tragic assaults and indignities, terrifying ethnic cleansing, genocides and pogroms against ethnic and religious communities, especially against minorities. Bosnia, Cambodia, China, Croatia, India, Iraq, Rwanda, Soviet Union, Sudan, and Yugoslavia come to mind where serious violations have occurred. The continuing violations around the world remind us about the forgotten lessons of the Holocaust and other horrific events of the past. Innocents, especially the elderly and young, always pay the heaviest price in cultural conflicts, religious wars, and hate-inspired ethnic purges. Re-emergence of terrorism as a political and ideological weapon is sending shivers across the entire human habitat. The victims suffer unconscionable hardships and outrageous intrusions into basic rights, dignity, and humanity promised under international charters, revealing the frightening face of unchecked and indiscriminate evil.

There are not enough courageous "soldiers" like Simon Wiesenthal or Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, Human Rights organizations, Amnesty Internationals, and watchdog agencies to monitor daily violations. Often there is lack of much-needed cooperation and will or overriding political considerations to identify, aggressively pursue and bring the guilty to justice. The guilty roam free, while the world looks the other way, often occupied or unaware of the tragedies that happen outside their immediate circle of concerns and safe citadels.

Yet, there is reason for optimism. Today, thanks to information and internet technology, we instantly learn about unfortunate happenings in the farthest and remotest regions of the world. The passionate activists and organizations with missions and mandates to safeguard human rights and justice, mobilize media, resources, and the global community to bring pressure on governments and institutions to address serious problems. We are beginning to recognize that in an interdependent world the violations and threat to life, liberty, and basic dignity of any one is an assault against all and we need to stand in solidarity against all forms of evil and outrage anywhere; unite against terror-driven ideologies that threaten people, cultural treasures; disturb tranquility of our civilization.

Our biggest challenge remains to educate the educators, parents, children, civic and spiritual leaders, law-enforcement officials, the media, and institutions created to defend and protect people, especially endangered cultures or vulnerable communities. We must prevent unfortunate excursions into the sacred domain of each other's humanity, dispel ignorance, intolerance, indifference, and unfounded stereotyping that breed suspicion and contempt; reform policies that are out of step with transcending cultures, emerging new frontier of ideas and ideals at our doorsteps. We have an opportunity to shape a century of peaceful coexistence by strengthening and discovering the unmistakable intertwined human destiny through sharing of innovations, ideas, knowledge, learning, and exchange.

This is not possible until we take appropriate steps against bigotry, injustice, inequality, racial profiling, and cycles of ethnic and cultural assaults against fellow citizens. Our inaction and apologetic hand wringing in the aftermath of tragic happenings can only embolden those who indulge in hate, harassment, and criminal conduct. Humanity's survival, peace, and prosperity depend on our safeguarding civic and cultural fabric, preventing future nightmares, cultural mayhems, the exploding menace of terrorism, and punishing those who engage in crimes against humanity. We must honor the universal pledges and international agreements on the fundamental rights of all beings in a serious affirmation of the non-negotiable sanctity of the promises enshrined in these documents.

Our biggest challenge remains to recognize all forms of evil, conditions that feed menacing outrage, and take timely preventive measures. Teaching tolerance, dispelling mistrust; assuring justice, equality, moral accountability; and rejecting hate and unprovoked violence against another's faith, cultural identity, or gender are important first steps.

Simon Wiesenthal and others have fought and sacrificed much to remind us of our moral responsibility to bring to justice those who terrorize and harm others out of unconscionable malice. As a lasting tribute, we must continue the noble legacy of Simon Wiesenthal and others by making certain that humanity will never again be blindsided by indifference toward other fellow beings and we will always remember that, "Survival is a privilege which entails obligation." The journey of this righteous man ended in the ultimate triumph of the human spirit. May his soul rest in peace.

Kanwal Prakash "KP" Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana USA

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