This past Saturday, the world lost an advocate for justice and peace with the death of Elie Wiesel, who died in his Manhattan home at age of 87. He was an outspoken activist for human rights whose words inspired millions around the world. Elie Wiesel strongly believed that he had survived the Holocaust for a reason, and so he dedicated his life to countless causes for social justice and peace in his quest to ensure that those who had lost their lives in the death camps would not lose their voices.
Elie Wiesel spoke as an eyewitness to the human capacity for evil, but his messages were never vengeful. Through the words of his books and the actions manifest throughout his life he modeled for the need to stand up against intolerance, hatred, prejudice and injustice in society. The following words from the speech he delivered upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986 stands to inspire all who strive to fight for peace and justice in the world:
I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. (The Nobel Peace Prize speech, 1986)
With the death of Elie Wiesel, we come face to face with the fact that the final eyewitnesses to the atrocities of the Holocaust are passing from this earth. Elie Wiesel’s legacy demands that we must never stand on the sidelines when hatred and injustice arise in society. We must not be indifferent. We must be advocates for what is right and just in the world, and we must never forget the human capacity to act otherwise.