Faith leaders reflect at Auschwitz

19 November 2008

by Ed Beavan

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, joined other faith leaders from Britain in a one-day visit to the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland last week. The visit was arranged to demonstrate their solidarity against the ex­tremes of hostility represented by the camp. It was organised in conjunction with the Lessons from Auschwitz Project and the Holocaust Educational Trust, which sent 200 students on the trip.

Dr Williams delivered his personal reflections during the visit, which culminated in the reading of Psalm 23. “Many times today, we’ve been reminded that what happened here at Auschwitz-Birkenau didn’t happen just because of a small number of monstrously evil people. It happened also because people cooked meals, drove trains, designed and built the buildings we’ve been in — people doing ordinary jobs, people who failed to see the big picture.

“In a world where it’s possible for people to take monstrosity for granted as normal, as ordinary, you and I have to decide to be human — to decide that we’re not going to take inhumanity for granted. We here, who have come as representatives of the faith traditions in Britain, are here to learn from this place, and to learn from one another. But we’re also here to bear witness as best we can: that it is as we look at God that we find something of the courage to decide to be human.

“If we find we have the courage and the resource to decide to be human, and not to take certain things for granted, we may perhaps sometimes remember that, for a great part of the human race, that’s not a journey we take alone.”

Other faith leaders who made the visit included Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain, Dr Ramesh Pattni of the Hindu Forum of Britain, and the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens.

Archbishop’s concern over Orissa
Dr Williams has written to the Churches of North and of South India, expressing his “deep concern” over the “shocking” persecution of Christians in the state of Orissa and other parts of the country. He called for reconciliation, for the perpetrators of the violence to be brought to justice, and for villagers to be allowed to return to their homes in peace.

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