JUDAEO-CHRISTIAN communities should not hide from conflict amid the “deep sense of uncertainty and anxiety” in the UK after the referendum, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned. Rather, they must remind the nation of the responsibilities of free speech by setting an example of good disagreement, where the beliefs of others are not undermined or abused.
Archbishop Welby was speaking at the launch of an interfaith initiative, “In Good Faith”, at Lambeth Palace, on Monday. He has joined forces with the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, to encourage better dialogue between clerics and rabbis who live and work in the same areas.
“Our natural inclination is to avoid conflict, to hide the depth of animosity and fear that is so apparent, and to pretend that somehow all will be well in the end,” Archbishop Welby said. But shying away from the consequences of a theologically grounded right to life, liberty, and democracy in the country could create “yawning chasms” between individuals, communities, and faiths, he warned.
“Democracy is not in and of itself the final answer; nor is the rule of law. . . Our understanding of the rights and responsibilities that flow from our God-given inheritance as human beings enables us — Jewish and Christian communities together — to be powerful and compelling advocates for freedom in British society.”
The Archbishop condemned the use of this freedom to taken down “destructively and negatively” those with whom one disagrees, quoting again the “egregious” portrayal of the judiciary last week (News, 11 November). He also pointed to the Church’s “own history of intolerance and deep-seated anti-Semitism” for which it must be held accountable.
Archbishop Welby told the Muslim Council of Elders, earlier this month, that democracy does not work unless human rights were upheld. Freedom of speech must not be abused but used to appreciate the value, identity, and integrity of the human being, he said (News, 4 November).
At the launch, mixed groups of rabbis and clerics were invited to consider four topics to inspire conversation between the two faiths within their communities, including combating religious extremism. “It is in the everyday conversations, the grassroots initiatives, and the building of local bridges between Christians and Jews, our synagogues and churches, that we will see real change and the hope for a divided world and nation,” Archbishop Welby said.
Chief Rabbi Mirvis told the gathering: “The most important part of today is tomorrow. It is what will result as a consequence of our collaboration. The strength of what we are doing is to encourage us all to work together . . . to guarantee that the outstanding relationships that we have at leadership level will trickle down to the grassroots within our communities, so that, as faith leaders, we will make a change in this challenging world of ours.”