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Letters to the editor >

Holocaust Memorial Day, and the CMJ Statement

From the Rt Revd John Brown
Sir, — Thank you for giving us Canon Paul Oestreicher’s insights into Auschwitz  ( Features, 21 January). May I please add to this?

Not too long ago, I took part in a conference at Auschwitz organised by the Jewish-Christian Centre at Sacred Heart University in Fairford, Connecticut. Those present were rabbis, imams, grand muftis, cardinals, and Muslims, Jews, and Christians such as myself from the ecclesiastical and academic worlds of East and West.

We stayed in Auschwitz, and, on a tour of the concentration camp of Auschwitz/Birkenau, we stood in the Garden of Remembrance built on the site of the gas chambers.

The Jewish leaders of the conference led us in prayer, and, in the silence that followed, I asked if I might pray the Lord’s Prayer and intercede in Arabic. When I had finished, immediately a young Palestinian woman prayed for peace and reconciliation among the “People of the Book”, the children of Abraham, and this was taken up by other Muslims present.

The tendency of the whole conference was one of desire for peace and reconciliation. It was marred only by the intervention of two rabbis of extreme political views; and the conference was taught that the extreme Palestinian views are declared and practised by a small politically motivated minority among the whole Palestinian population.

With this in mind, the “Statement on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” by the Church’s Ministry among Jewish People (CMJ; advertisement, page 10) in the same issue demands a detailed and full reply, because of its ambiguity and special pleading.
Formerly Bishop in Cyprus & the Gulf
130 Oxford Street
Cleethorpes DN35 0BP

From the Revd Tony Crowe
Sir, — The CMJ Statement on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is really a moderate form of Christian Zionism. I met Tony Higton at the 5th International Sabeel Conference, “Challenging Christian Zionism”, in Jerusalem in April 2004. He was allowed space to express his views, which he did in a courteous manner.

The Sabeel Statement from the Conference included these words: “With renewed urgency we warn that the theology of Christian Zionism is leading to the moral justification of empire, colonisation, apartheid and oppression.”

Indeed, the influence of Christian Zionism has seeped into mainstream Churches, playing on guilt over the Holocaust.

The CMJ Statement mentions the olive tree from Romans and the dividing wall from Ephesians without any contextual theology of the uprooting of thousands of olive trees in the West Bank to build the Israeli Security Fence.
9 Park Avenue, Whitstable
Kent CT5 2DD

From the Revd Roger Pollard
Sir, — I note that the CMJ in its “Statement on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” affirms that “God desires justice and peace for all people groups.” I was distressed, however, not to find any reference to the Middle East Council of Churches nor to the concerns of the church leaders in the Holy Land.

The indigenous Church, since the time of the first apostles, has been concerned to promote God’s Kingdom of love, justice and peace. In their recent statements, the Patriarchs and Heads of the 13 historic Churches in Jerusalem said: “It is imperative now (following the breakdown of the Oslo accords) to implement the principles of international legitimacy by enforcing the binding UN Security Council resolutions” (Jerusalem, 9 November 2000).
It would be helpful to know whether CMJ shares this concern of the indigenous Church.
Little Garth, Dowlish Wake
Ilminster, Somerset TA19 0NX

From Mr R. G. Cranmore
Sir, — I am concerned that this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day focuses just on survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, and effectively excludes all other genocides, including those going on at this very moment, ones which we could still do, and in some cases are doing, something about by prayer or political or economic action — say, in Darfur, Chechnya, and occupied Palestine.

I fully condemn the Nazi Holocaust as an evil and historically proven event, and I respect all Jews for their contribution to British and, indeed, to world life and culture. The Holocaust is worthy of commemoration and learning, but so are all the other unique genocides and gross attacks on human rights.

I’m sure the official justification is that it is now the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz; but do we always have to look back and not forward?

I have looked at the Holocaust Memorial Day website, and there appears to be no mechanism by which anyone can influence what is to be commemorated: it is presumably agreed by unknown politicians and civil servants with no democratic consultation. Last year, the Memorial Day encouraged a wider commemoration, including Rwanda. I had trusted that this year’s topic would be similar.

Thus, regretfully, I shall boycott Holocaust Memorial Day this year.
1 Lakeside, Brighton Road
Lancing, West Sussex BN15 8LN


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