Tour for Humanity visits local Catholic schools

 

By Adam D’Andrea

 

An educational group visited two local schools to teach students about genocide and other human rights violations.

The Tour for Humanity, organized by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, stopped at St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School and St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic High School to discuss the Holocaust and various other genocides throughout history. Students were invited to head inside the tour’s mobile classroom, which travels throughout Ontario and includes three large projection screens.

“Basically we’re dedicated to promoting human rights and looking at why it’s so important to protect those rights, through the violation of human rights specifically with the Holocaust, and looking at different incidences of anti-Semitism leading into that event,” said Elena Kingsbury, educator with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal.

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The group was named after Wiesenthal, a concentration camp survivor, because of his dedication to human rights promotion and educating people about the Holocaust. Although the group largely focuses on Holocaust education, Kingsbury said they use the event as a jumping-off point to teach students about genocides that occurred before and after World War Two as well.

“Events including the Cambodian genocide in the 1970s, Rwanda, Darfur, but we also touch on a few events before (the Holocaust) as well. The Armenian genocide, what was going on in the Soviet Union in the 1930s,” said Kingsbury. “We try to hit a lot of different major topics. It’s hard to do them all justice in an hour, but that’s what we try to do.”

Kingsbury added that the tour teaches students about the 10 recognized stages of genocide, as she feels it is important for students to understand the progression of events that can lead to human rights atrocities.

“Even though when we talk about genocide we’re usually talking about violence and killing, a lot of the time there are legal steps that are taken before that later phase of violence takes place,” she said.

During the stop at Villanova, Kingsbury said she had a great experience with students at both schools.

“I would say we got really positive feedback (at St. Joseph’s) and so far so good today.”

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