My Name is Alycia
Posted by RZIM Canada on May 25, 2017
Topic: UA Summit
My name is Alycia. I don’t remember receiving that name and it seems to have stuck with me for a while. Apparently my mother liked it. Apparently others do too. I don’t feel special for having the name Alycia. I’m not the only one in the world who has it. And even if I was, everyone else in the world has a name of some sort, so there’s nothing that special about me having one either.
I remember my visit to Auschwitz a while back. The former Nazi concentration camp in Poland where over 1 million people spent their last moments– victims of the frigid cold Poland winters, hard labor, sickness or the tormenting effects of Zyklon B gas. There were many things that stuck out to me during that visit. One of them was the amount of people that were crammed onto one bunk. Imagine sharing a bed with at least 5 others… Or the pictures of public hangings and execution by gunfire that were drawn by children. Small children innocently depicting the world around them. But the other thing that struck me was that upon arrival, new prisoners were given a number. This was to be their new name, the way their existence was to be recorded, the way they were to be referred. There was no more use for a name and so it was callously stripped away. Names were reserved for those perceived to be human–guards, SS and the like. Certainly not for a Jew.
When I think of violations of human rights, I traditionally think of acts done towards someone that has left them in a state of poverty, illness, and oppression. I often, actually never, associated the stripping of a name with a human rights violation. But when I was at Auschwitz, they told me that stripping someone of their name was a way to strip them of an identity. To dehumanize them. As if an identity is something that someone can take away from you simply because they will it. As if an identity was all wrapped up in a name. As if you could somehow make me less human by refusing to call me by my name. As if I could somehow be less human just because you willed it.
Yet, these actions by the Nazi’s reminded me of the Biblical story of Abraham. In this particular story Sarah, Abraham’s wife, after years of waiting for God’s promise of a pregnancy for her, gives up on waiting and encourages her husband to conceive with her servant Hagar. He does and Hagar becomes pregnant with a boy who is to be named Ishmael. Sarah, fuming with jealousy casts Hagar out of the community to be on her own and face whatever may come her way. She is visited by an angel of the Lord to let her know that although she has been rejected and cast out, she is not forgotten by the Lord. Her response touched me deeply the first time I hear it, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Gen. 16:13). The outcast, was known. The outcast was seen. The outcast was not forgotten. I don’t know if giving someone a number instead of a name is a Human Rights violation, but whether your name has been stripped from you, or whether life has attempted to erase your significance, I think what Hagar has learned, we can learn too. You are always seen by a God who only adds value to you and never strips it away, even if someone else attempts to.
But yet, our name seems to be a deep part of what makes us, us. There is something special to it. When someone calls my name in a crowd, they are saying, that it is my attention, not those around us that they want. Calling my name singles me out from other people. It pulls me out of the crowd, and emphasizes my uniqueness. Maybe there is something special about my name. Perhaps that is because being a part of, but being distinct from a larger group is a beautiful thing about existence.
Thankfully, while many prisoners had their names stripped from them, their names were still very much alive. Thankfully, even though sometimes I may feel that those close to me don’t even know my name anymore (out of sight out of mind), I have a Heavenly Father who is fully aware of it as I am reminded of a song we used to sing:
He knows my name,
He knows my every thought.
He sees each tear that falls,
And He hears me when I call.
Join Alycia Wood in Winnipeg for RZIM Canada’s ‘Understanding and Answering Summit on Human Rights’. The summit is a four-day event where you will hear from numerous RZIM speakers tackle topics relating to human rights issues. The summit also includes a debate between Dr. Christopher DiCarlo and Andy Bannister at the Museum of Human Rights (tickets for this event can also be purchased separately). To register and for more information, visit RZIMua.ca