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Justin Welby says world must be 'vigilant' against a 'volcano of anti-semitism'

by Donna Birrell

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the world must be ‘vigilant’ against the eruption of a ‘volcano’ of anti-semitism.

The Most Rev Justin Welby was part of a group of  faith leaders from across the world contributing to a symposium in Berlin ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January.

The meeting, organised by the European Coalition for Israel and the Evangelical Academy in Berlin, marked the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee conference in Berlin. That conference - on 20 January 1942 - brought together senior Nazi and German government officials to discuss, plan and coordinate the implementation of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”, the extermination of eleven million Jews in Europe, of which six million were murdered before the Nazis were defeated and the war came to an end.

In a recorded message this week, Archbishop Justin decried what he called " the profound evil of antisemitism".

"For centuries antisemitism has been like a volcano in European culture. From time to time erupting with absolute destruction – but always emitting noxious and terrible gases which has poisoned the atmosphere both in Europe and around the world.

“We must constantly be vigilant against the first signs of an eruption coming. We can never ever tolerate any antisemitism. There is no acceptable level of antisemitism.”

Among the fifteen attendees were the Secretary-General of the World Evangelical Alliance, Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, and the Chair of the Pentecostal Religious Liberty Commission, Dr. Arto Hämäläinen, representing hundreds of millions of Christian believers worldwide.

The vice-president of the German Parliament (Bundestag), Katrin Göring-Eckardt noted that the fight against antisemitism needs new allies and a broad cooperation. “We need strong alliances that extend beyond individual concerns. It is the duty of Christians to make the concerns of their Jewish compatriots their common concern. To be united and be allies."

Representing the Jewish community of Europe, Gady Gronich, CEO of the Conference of European Rabbis Foundation, reminded the delegates not only to concentrate their thoughts and contributions on the tragedies of the past but also to carefully take into consideration the challenges facing Jewish communities in Europe today.

“Eighty years after the Wannsee conference, more and more Jews are asking themselves if there is still a future in Europe. The challenges facing the Jewish communities today are not only old forms of antisemitism, but new legislation which is restricting Jewish practice of religious freedom. Without circumcision and kosher slaughter there can be no religious Jewish life in Europe.”

Responding to the plea from the Jewish Community, the symposium attendees issued a declaration which stated that “the criminalization of circumcision and kosher slaughter must be resisted, as they are central to Jewish religious practice and are protected by the right to freedom of religion and belief, as enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
The declaration went on to note that: “The Holocaust did not start with the Wannsee conference but with a long series of laws and edicts which were passed to isolate, discredit and delegitimize Jewish culture and religion, and this declaration calls on national authorities and church communities to create conditions where Jewish life can flourish.”

The memorial service of the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee conference will be broadcast on Thursday 27 January at 16.00 Berlin time (CET), followed by a live conversation with some of the delegates who were at the symposium.

You can register here.



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