The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has denounced what he called “the profound evil of antisemitism” in a video message to a group of faith leaders meeting in Berlin to mark the 80th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference.
Wannsee was the notorious 1942 meeting at which Nazi leaders gathered to iron out the details of what became known as “the Final Solution” — the ultimate fate of the Jews of Europe.
In response, 15 faith leaders assembled by the European Coalition for Israel, a largely Christian organisation based in Brussels, held a one day symposium to address the issues faced by today’s church and the challenges of antisemitism.
Archbishop Welby said that “for centuries, antisemitism has been like a volcano in European culture, from time to time erupting with absolute destruction — but always emitting noxious and terrible gases which have poisoned the atmosphere, both in Europe and around the world”. He warned: “We must constantly be vigilant against the first signs of an eruption coming. We can never ever tolerate any antisemitism. There is no acceptable level of antisemitism”.
Tomas Sandell, CEO of the European Coalition for Israel, reminded participants that Wannsee and the ensuing Holocaust could not have happened “without a supportive belief system and deeply rooted antisemitic sentiments in the German culture at the time, there could not have been a Holocaust”.
Delegates to the symposium included the secretary-general of the World Evangelical Alliance, Dr Thomas Schirrmacher, and the chair of the Pentecostal Religious Liberty Commission, Dr Arto Hamalainen, representing millions of Christian believers worldwide. There were also contributions from the Conference of European Rabbis and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles.
The symposium issued a declaration in response to a plea from the European Jewish community, in which the faith leaders called for resistance to the criminalisation of circumcision and shechita.
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