THE Archbishop of Canterbury has paid tribute to Shimon Peres, the Israeli statesman, whose death was announced on Wednesday.
Mr Peres, who served in the government of Israel from its foundation in 1948 until his resignation as President in 2014, was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at reconciliation with the Palestinians.
Archbishop Welby praised Mr Peres’s “extraordinary life of service to the nation of Israel and to the cause of justice and reconciliation.
”His unshakeable commitment to a vision of peace endured in the face of every possible setback and spurred all those working for peace to persevere.”
The Archbishop spoke about their meeting in 2013: “I was struck by his realism about the difficulties and dangers facing Israel, together with the profound hope for a better future that continued to animate his life and work. May it inspire all who continue to work for peace.”
Earlier in the week, Archbishop Welby condemned the “virus” of anti-Semitism. Writing in Lessons Learned? Reflections on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, published by the Holocaust Educational Trust and the Community Security Trust, Archbishop Welby said that “the habits of anti-Semitism have been burrowing into European and British culture for as long as we can remember.”
He described it as a virus that had “mutated within common parlance and culture” by the time Cromwell reopened England to Jewish settlement in the 1650s. “It is a shameful truth that, through its theological teachings, the Church, which should have offered an antidote, compounded the spread of this virus.
”The fact that anti-Semitism has infected the body of the Church is something of which we as Christians must be deeply repentant. We live with the consequences of our history of denial and complicity.”
Anti-Semitism was “so deeply entrenched in our thought and culture, it is often ignored and dismissed”, he said,. He called on society “to stand together and to speak out”.
A public declaration of Christian support for the State of Israel was delivered to Israel’s Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, on Monday. About 80 leaders from churches and Christian organisations joined diplomats and representatives from the Jewish community at the Israeli Embassy in London.
Launched in March 2015, the Shalom Declaration has been signed by individuals and by 200 groups and organisations — mostly from the Pentecostal and Black-led churches.
One of the few C of E signatories, Canon Stephen Trott, the Rector of Pitsford with Boughton, near Northampton, explained the lack of Anglicans on the list: “There is quite a network amongst Evangelical churches which is focused on Israel as the biblical home of the Church, and I think that is less apparent in the Church of England, where we are very much settled on our own culture . . . and we don’t see things in such global terms.
”But some of us have been to Israel, and we love the country, and we think it is important that Israel’s contribution to our Christian history is affirmed, upheld, and promoted.”
He said that the declaration was about “our shared cultures and our shared spiritual inheritance as Christians and Jews”.
Mr Regev thanked the signatories. They were “standing up, standing by, [and] standing with the Middle East’s one and only democracy”, he said.