Marcel Marceau was a French mime artist most famous for his portrayal of ‘Bip the Clown’ in what he described as the ‘art of silence.’ I had watched him perform on television on many occasions, but it was only last week when I watched the film Resistance, a biographical drama about Marceau, that I learned about his time in the French Resistance during the Second World War.
Born to a Jewish family in Strasbourg, Marceau and his family had to flee for their lives when the Nazis invaded France. Masquerading as a Scout leader he led orphaned children across the Alps to safety in Switzerland, saving over 100 children in the process. Although his act is famous for silence, he was anything but silent during the War when he stood up to help save these young children. He was a beacon of light in the darkness of the times.
At the end of January, Holocaust Memorial Day was commemorated with the theme, ‘Be the light in the darkness’. This theme encourages everyone to ‘reflect on the depths humanity can sink to, but also the ways individuals and communities resisted that darkness to ‘be the light’ before, during and after genocide’ by resisting evil regimes, rescuing the persecuted, and lighting the way with kindness. 1
The Baptist minister and civil rights activist, Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ 2 King took his inspiration from the words of another Jew who was also living in a time of occupation by a foreign army: Jesus Christ. He told his followers that they are lights in a dark world, who must let their lights shine brightly, 3 and that the world would know they are his followers if they loved other people. 4
There are many ways that we can be a light in this world as there is much darkness to be dispelled. There are many ways that we can love our fellow human being as there is much hatred to be overcome.
This is not a time to be silent or to dim the light. Not only Christians, but all people have a responsibility to care for their fellow human beings: to welcome the refugee, to feed the poor and starving, to raise our voice against prejudice, discrimination, and intolerance wherever it appears.
As a Christian this is what I believe the founder of Christianity would do in our world today, and as his follower can I do any less?
Have a good week being a light in the world.
- Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 Theme Vision
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? (1967), p67.
- The Bible, Matthew chapter 5 verses 16-17, New International Version (UK).
- The Bible, John, chapter 13 verse 34-35, and Mark chapter 12 verses 30-31.