July 18, 2005

The London bombing attacks

There can be no doubt that the recent terrorist attacks in London have brought an understandable feeling of consternation to which we must add astonishment that most of the perpetrators were British citizens. As a society people ask themselves how is it possible that people born and brought up in their midst can turn against their own. How is it possible that apparently well adjusted people suddenly become murderers? This question is not a new one. Whenever there is a outbreak of violence, law-abiding citizens from London to Buenos Aires, from Rwanda to the ex-Yugoslavia, ask themselves the same question. Unfortunately, the world is teeming with examples.

It is most difficult to find a response to such a complex question. However, it is possible to put into practice some practical suggestions aimed at instilling in peoples’ minds the need to defend life over death, the acceptance of differences against discrimination, and the peaceful resolution of conflicts without resorting to violence.

The ”Wallenberg at School” educational program presented five years ago in Buenos Aires with the auspices of the City Ministry of Education, has allowed scores of volunteers to get in touch with schoolchildren so that they become acquainted with the remarkable history of the Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of lives during World War II, despite the fact that he did not share with them their social standing, their nationality or their religion.

Wallenberg and the many other saviors of the Holocaust show us that courageous individuals conscious of his or her convictions can change the course of history.

The meetings that take place in schools, organized by the Wallenberg Foundation, lead the children to reflect on the importance of going out of one’s way to uphold the rights of others. We invite the young schoolchildren to imagine that they are in Wallenberg’s place, and to think what they would do if in their presence someone were discriminated on account of his religion or nationality, his age or sex, his club colours or his musical preferences. The replies of the students are always both eloquent and amazing.

Today, there is in the world a need to believe in real life heroes, and no one deserves this distinction as much as those who did so much to save their fellow men.

It is highly uncertain whether we shall ever know the deep reasons underlying the London massacre, but we have no doubt that if we allow hatred, intolerance and violence to prevail within our societies, we shall be sowing seeds of violence for the times to come.

Nicholas Tozer
International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation

Translation: Josefina Prytyka de Duschatzky