Ethel Brooks is a professor of Sociology and Women’s & Gender studies at the Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences. In 2016, President Obama appointed Brooks to the United States Memorial Council. She is a member of the U.S. Remembrance Alliance Delegation to the International Holocaust, and board member of various journals and organizations including the RomArchive and USC Shoah Foundation. Ethel Brooks is one of just a handful of Romani PhD holders in the world. The Romani - or 'Roma' - ethnic group is sometimes referred to as 'Gypsies' (a term typically regarded as an offensive slur), and has a global population of over 12 million people. Between 750,000 and 1 million Romani people are believed to have been executed during the Holocaust.
Majed El Shafie is a human rights advocate, founder of One Free World International (OFWI), and an international spokesperson on the Yazidi genocide of 2014. The Yazidi are a small Kurdish population of 10,000 in northern Iraq. Of that figure, 3,100 were murdered, with almost half executed while the rest died from starvation, dehydration or injuries during the ISIS siege. El Shafie has engaged in advocating for religious freedom, confronting governments that violate this fundamental right. El Shafie's organization, One Free World International (OFWI), is one of the leading organizations advocating for religious minorities globally, with 28 branches around the world. El Shafie has testified numerous times before parliamentary bodies including the Subcommittee for International Human Rights of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, United States Congressional subcommittees and commissions, and the Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism in Canada. He is also the recipient 2016 Raoul Wallenberg Citation for Moral Courage
Judy Csillag (organizer) is a non-profit executive who specializes in initiating and delivering educational programs, special events, and conferences that focus on race relations and interfaith/interculture topics. Judy sits on Liberation75's Planning Committee, is a consultant for Parliament of the World's Religions, was a Senior Project Advisor with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, and worked for the Canadian Centre for Diversity as the Director of Community Outreach & Partnerships. Judy also worked for Skills for Change, promoting the role of immigrants in nation-building, and connecting recent immigrants to employment opportunities.
Sally Armstrong (moderator) is an award-winning author, human rights activist, and journalist who covers the status of women in zones of conflict, as well as in North America. Sally was the 2019 Massey Lecturer and a four-time winner of the Amnesty International Canada Media Award. She holds ten honorary doctorate degrees, and is an officer of the Order of Canada. Sally's journalism exposes the abuse of girls and women in settings varying from American university campuses to villages in war zones.
SLAUGHTER AND SURVIVAL:
Genocide Against the Tutsis in Rwanda
Tharcisse Seminega, Rwandan Genocide Survivor, author of "No Greater Love: How My Family Survived the Genocide in Rwanda", was a senior lecturer at the National University of Rwanda when the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi occurred. The Seminega family survived because Hutu Jehovah’s Witnesses and their friends risked their lives to hide them for 75 days. The Seminegas live in Gatineau, Québec.
Greg Milakovich is the US representative for the Arnold-Liebster Foundation (ALF), which was founded by Holocaust-era survivors. ALF has made hundreds of presentations to educators and students, including live Skype conferences with ALF founder Simone Liebster of France. ALF has partnered with Holocaust museums and research institutions in North America and Europe to provide historical and educational content on the experience of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Nazi era. Greg will also present a breakout program at Liberation75 titled "Standing Out, Standing Up: The Nazi Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses."
This workshop will explore one of the fastest-moving genocides in modern times. First-person testimony by genocide survivor Tharcisse Seminega will provide context for a genocide that many wrongly attributed to ‘centuries-old tribal hatred.’The presentation will illustrate how seemingly-distant genocide carries universal lessons in how people can be manipulated by propaganda, following a continuum from bias to mass violence. Professor Seminega will also explore a little-known aspect of the Rwandan tragedy—the few rescuers who risked their lives to save Tutsi. He and his family were sheltered by about 20 members of his faith community of Jehovah’s Witnesses (represented by Greg Milakovich). Human-rights researchers found that the Witnesses and the Muslims were only the two religious groups that collectively refused to take part in genocide.
THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE TODAY AND TOMORROW
Raffi Sarkissian is the founder and Chair of the Sara Corning Centre for Genocide Education and Principal of the A.R.S. Armenian private school in Toronto. Raffi has conducted extensive research in the field of genocide and human rights education, and has over 15 years of experience in leadership positions in Canadian-Armenian organizations.
George Aghjayan is a former actuary. His primary areas of focus are the demographic makeup and geography of Western Armenia (eastern Turkey) and the hidden Armenians living there today. George has led more than 10 visits to Western Armenia, where these descendants of Armenian genocide survivors live.
The Armenian Genocide took place over 100 years ago. In all the world today, there are likely no more than a few tens of genocide survivors left. This presentation will divulge how Armenians are interacting with the Armenian Genocide today, how DNA testing is reconstructing fragmented families, and what we can expect for the future.
STANDING OUT, STANDING UP:
The Nazi Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses
Greg Milakovich is the US representative for the Arnold-Liebster Foundation (ALF), which was founded by Holocaust-era survivors. ALF has made hundreds of presentations to educators and students, including live Skype conferences with ALF founder Simone Liebster of France. ALF has partnered with Holocaust museums and research institutions in North America and Europe to provide historical and educational content on the experience of Jehovah’s Witnesses during the Nazi era.
This presentation will feature video-streamed (or recorded) testimony by Jehovah’s Witness survivor Simone Liebster.
This program will address the experience of persecuted Jehovah's Witnesses during the Holocaust. The Witness experience is distinctive because the Nazi regime did not aim to physically exterminate the faith community of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as it did with Jewish, Roma, and other victims. The Nazis considered the Witnesses as ideological (as opposed to “biological”) enemies because the Witnesses refused to support Nazi ideology. Incarcerated Witnesses could go free if they renounced their faith (Very few Witnesses did). The Witnesses were the first denomination banned in Nazi Germany and were the most severely persecuted. Scholars consider the Witness response to Nazism as unique among Christian groups in Nazi Germany.
Witnesses who took a stand of conscience against Nazi racism and violence faced severe fatal consequences. Of about 35,000 Witnesses in Nazi-occupied Europe, thousands went to prisons and camps. About 500 children of Witnesses were taken away and subject to Nazi indoctrination, of which Simone Arnold Liebster was one. Arrested in Alsace, France, at age 12, she was deported to a Nazi penitentiary home in Germany, where she spent nearly two years while her parents were in concentration camps. About Witnesses 1,500 died, including some 400 who were executed for conscientious objection.