Love Buttons to Buchenwald: اَلْحُبْ

With love: Buchenwald Survivors in attendance at the 70th anniversary of liberation, April 11, 2015

Tomorrow, I fly to Germany to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald, the Concentration Camp my grandfather spent time in between August and November, 1944. In past years, I’ve gone with him as a companion; this year, I go as the bearer of his torch. Grandpa passed away on February 22, 2017.

Like many who survived the Holocaust, my grandfather had been troubled by the rise of xenophobic hate in the world, particularly in the West. He’d been there, done that, and did not want to see the war for humanity his generation fought repeated. Hate leads to hate, he’d say — love life, enjoy good food, appreciate your fellow man.

My grandpa was a fighter when fighting was called for, but love was his compass.

A good friend of mine, Waleed Nassar, has embarked on his own lead-to-love journey; through his social enterprise LoveArabic, Waleed has created a series of buttons depicting the 15 degrees of love expressed in the Arabic language. Our friend Judy Pham does an amazing job covering the why of the Love Button project here.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise. Anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise. Hatred towards all the usual targets — homosexuals, Sinti-Roma, those with left-leaning political views, etc. are all on the rise. Islamaphobia is distinctly on the rise.

What we need more of in this world is love — especially for those who are, once again, being treated like viruses rather than neighbours.

In recognition of this, and as a way to tie past and present together, I asked Waleed if I could bring some love buttons with me to Buchenwald as symbols for survivor friends and representatives of groups still targeted with xenophobic hate by fascist/neo-Nazi groups today. The message would be simple; you are respected, you are valued, you are loved, you belong.

Neither Waleed nor I represent any big group or movement; we’re just a couple of Canadians who truly believe that love is the answer, and who have tremendous respect for survivors of hate manifested into inhuman horror.

What we both believe, though, is that hate is a short-term and self-destructive, and that it is always love that leads us through dark times to reconciliation and, inevitably. community.

Love is the answer — and, as it happens, Arabic gives you 15 different kinds of love to choose from. If you want, you can even order your own Love Button and be part of this thing we’re doing, too.

I look forward to spreading the love this weekend, and thank Waleed for his love and collaboration in making this happen.