UCJC brings together experts on the genocides of the twentieth century to reflect on the importance of preventing hate

University Camilo José Cela, through its Foundation, has organised the international seminar entitled Europe Against Genocide: 1915-2015, bringing together international experts on six of the world’s major genocides. These include those of the twentieth century, the Armenian, Jewish and Gypsy genocides, and more recently those of Srebrenica and Rwanda, and the first major genocide of the twenty-first century, the Yazidi genocide. This series of conferences, part of the calendar of events commemorating the 20th anniversary of our university, will reflect on the social, economic and historical consequences of genocide and, in particular, on how to prevent them through teaching and education. This seminar is led by Henar Corbí, an advisor to the Sefarad-Israel Centre and a member of the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance), and Francisco López Muñoz, Vice Rector for Research and Science at UCJC.

At the opening of the seminar – attended by the Deputy Regional Minister for Science, Universities and Innovation for the Madrid Region, Alfonso González Hermoso de Mendoza, the Rector of University Camilo José Cela, Emilio Lora-Tamayo, remarked that “if as educators and transmitters of knowledge and ethical values we are not able to get involved and contribute to the new generations joining the defence of a peaceful society, in which  human beings are able to live with those who have different ideas, religions, races or interests, then we will have failed miserably.”

For her part, the President of SEK Education Group, Nieves Segovia wished to remember the victims of genocide and called for a moment of silence in honour of them. “Today our university is dignified by advocating for the dignity, and the right to freedom, of every human being. In particular those who have been victims of terrible genocides”, she said.

She then opened the round table discussion ‘Today’s Reflections on Yesterday’s Genocides’, in which renowned experts from around the world participated including Juan Antonio Yánez-Barnuevo García, ambassador of Spain; Yves Ternon, member of the Scientific Council of the Shoah Memorial; Manuel Reyes Mate, Director of the permanent research seminar “Philosophy After Auschwitz”; Francisco Javier Fernández Vallina, representative of the Ministry of Education at the ITF; Denis Peschanki, head for the National Resistance Committee of France; and Rafael Alvero, Director and Executive Producer of the musical El Diario de Ana Frank, un canto a la vida.

In the following days, relevant European personalities from the world of academia, culture and diplomacy will take part in the seminar, including journalists, sociologists, philosophers, historians or ambassadors. Among them were Archimandrite Father Shnornk Sargsyan; Mario Sinay, Doctor of Education specialised in Pedagogy of the Holocaust; Romani Rose, President of the German Council of Minorities; Alejandro E. Alvargonzález San Martín, diplomat, former ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina; José Ricardo de Prada, former judge of the International Criminal Court of The Hague; Miguel de Lucas González, director of the Sefarad-Israel Centre; Francisca Sauquillo Pérez del Arco, former senator and MEP, President of the Movement for Peace; Luis Ferreiro, curator of the exhibition “Auschwitz not long ago, not far away” and Federico Mayor Zaragoza, former Minister of Education and former Director General of UNESCO and current President of the Culture of Peace Foundation.

Also taking part were Dilvan Khuder “Aline”, a Yazidi survivor of a Daesh camp following her deportation from Sinjar, and Beata Umubyeyi, a writer and poet and survivor of the Tutsi genocide.

The risk of immediacy and technology in the face of great tragedies

Before the seminar was officially opened there was a round table discussion featuring a panel of Spanish experts including Pilar Requena, Alfonso Armada, Ramón Lobo, Gervasio Sánchez and Remy Ourdan. This exchange of ideas served to frame the debate about the atrocities and extreme violence around the world told in the first person by people who were there. Their work has been essential for citizens around the world to know and understand the different conflicts they have covered as journalists, and concluded that their work requires confronting the difficult dichotomy of feeling empathy for the victims to understand what is happening and, at the same time, the need to step away from such horror to be able to tell the facts to the readers.

The changes faced by journalists were also addressed, specifically on new technology and its immediacy and new ways of consuming information. Learning from history to better focus our future and thus avoiding repeating the horrors perpetrated in the past, the importance of memory and the danger of tragic silences or indifference, were some of the ideas that came to light in the conclusions drawn by the panel.

Following the end of World War II, in 1948, the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was born, and thus genocide was established as an international crime. This crime was included in the group of crimes against Humanity, perpetrated by a government, with the intention of systematically exterminating a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, either by killing the members of the group or undermining their physical or mental integrity, or by subjecting the group to living conditions that lead to their destruction.