Until a few days ago, it had been 26 years since a British MP was murdered in service. Thousands of people who never had the chance to meet Jo Cox, myself included, are still in shock at her death.
Indeed, last year, author Yuval Noah Harari wrote: 'An act of terror that would have gone unnoticed in a medieval kingdom can rattle much stronger modern states to their very core', due to these states’ success at all but eliminating political violence in their borders. This is the sick power wielded by terrorists – and make no mistake, this was terrorism – whether they shoot Parisian concert-goers, or cruelly steal the life of an MP from her children and her husband. One man and a makeshift gun can tear apart a family, and leave a nation palpably shaken.
But while we acknowledge the sadness that so many of us feel, mere platitudes about peace will not do her justice. Indeed, in the coming months we have a duty to keep fighting Jo Cox’s fight for social justice beyond borders. Out of all the struggles she championed, there are two that feel most pressing today: the plight of child refugees and the conflict in Syria.
Jo Cox campaigned tirelessly for refugees. She argued that Britain should do far more to help refugees, particularly children. She wrote: 'Those children have been exposed to things no child should ever witness, and I know I would risk life and limb to get my two precious babies out of that hellhole'. She acknowledged, as we all should, that it is only by luck of birth that we don’t live in a war zone ourselves. We cannot just turn our backs on those in desperate need.
However, Jo Cox’s vision of a Britain which takes principled action for refugees was never shared by all politicians, and certainly not by Nigel Farage, the principal architect of this week’s EU referendum. On the day of Jo Cox’s death, Farage smiled proudly in front of his new poster depicting a group of impoverished refugees, under the banner 'BREAKING POINT’.
As many have already pointed out – not least George Osborne – this vile billboard is not dissimilar to propaganda used by Hitler. In 1941, a Nazi newsreel tells Germans that Jewish refugees were 'parasites'. In 2016, Farage points to a photo of refugees and tells Brits we must 'take back control'. UKIP can complain about Reductio ad Hitlerum as much as they like, but if we are to truly do justice to Jo Cox’s memory, we cannot let the far right win the argument on refugees.
On Syria, Jo Cox demonstrated a courage and clarity that has been largely missing from the political debate. Together with the Conservative MP, Andrew Mitchell, in 2015, she wrote that 'there is nothing ethical about standing to one side when civilians are being murdered and maimed. There was no excuse in Bosnia, nor Rwanda and there isn’t now'.
Indeed, regarding Syria, Jo Cox tore through the empty rhetoric of two sides: both the 'anti-imperialist’ left – of which she wrote: 'if they were really the "Stop the War" coalition they would have been actively campaigning for resolute international action to protect civilians' – and the 'Isis first' brigade, who only wanted to target terrorist groups, ignoring the far bigger death toll caused by Assad.
Assad continues to barrel bomb the children of Syria in 2016. It is not too late for the UK and others to take the decisive action that Jo Cox and her Syrian comrades were calling for, with diplomatic, humanitarian and military components, including enforcing a no-fly zone to create safe havens for civilians.
When Jo Cox died last week, refugees, Syrians and the British public lost one of their most powerful voices in parliament. The world she fought for was one based on solidarity, social justice and human rights. If we are serious about honouring her memory, we must do it by taking on this fight.
Anthony Silkoff is a former Scotland Young Thinker of the Year. He works currently for UnLtd, an organisation which supports social entrepreneurs, and formerly for the OneVoice Movement and Save the Children