CHRISTIAN and Jewish faith leaders have held a conference to discuss the contribution that religious communities can make in tackling extremism and division.
The one-day symposium was organised by the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), and Cumberland Lodge, a charity that holds conferences and seminars on social issues in a 17th-century Grade II listed building in the grounds of Windsor Park.
The keynote address was given by the former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and Holocaust survivor Dr Charlotte Knobloch. “In these times of social upheaval and political strife, many tend to blame religions for any and all of our problems. I do not share this view,” she told the gathering on Tuesday.
“It is precisely against this backdrop of growing threats to Western democracy that faith communities need to make their voices heard. In my opinion, our beliefs have a unique power to unite us and allow us to engage in a meaningful dialogue.
“We need to speak openly now more than ever — with each other, but also to society at large.”
Among the other speakers were the Archbishop of Canterbury’s social and public affairs adviser, Rosemary Nuamah Williams; the senior rabbi of Masorti Judaism, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg; the senior adviser on freedom of religion or belief at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Dr Kishan Manocha; and the Revd Bruce Thompson, who chairs the Lincolnshire Methodist District.
The Principal of Cumberland Lodge, Canon Edmund Newell, said that the message he left the conference with was: “Now is the time to scale-up the good work done in many places to build more inclusive communities, across faiths and cultures.”
The director of the CCJ, Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko, said that in an era of rising hate-crime and attacks on people of faith, it was vital that religious communities were part of the conversation in tackling “the challenges of our times”.
The symposium came one year after the CCJ and Cumberland Lodge published a study guide for faith groups to use to discuss issues of populism, nationalism, and extremism, based on the 1943 book Darkness Over Germany, which explores how young people were drawn towards Nazism in the 1930s (Features, 5 May 2017; News, 26 May 2017).