OPINION: When Christians fear for their lives, it’s time for Jews to show solidarity

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: When Christians fear for their lives, it’s time for Jews to show solidarity

Elizabeth Harris-
Elizabeth Harris- Sawczenko

by Elizabeth Harris- Sawczenko, Council of Christians and Jews 

Elizabeth Harris- Sawczenko
Elizabeth Harris-

It was quite by chance that a few months ago on the eve of Yom Hashoah, I finally grabbed a moment to catch up with TV viewing and sat down to watch the BBC Panorama programme ‘Kill the Christians’.

The parallels between the persecution and wanton violence against Christians, and complete annihilation of entire historic communities at the hands of ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Libya, and the Jewish experience of persecution were obvious. Thousands of Christians are being singled out by violent extremists, simply because they are Christians.

The Pope has described the situation as “a form of genocide” and the Prince of Wales has referred to it as “an indescribable tragedy”.

In fact, Christians are the most widely persecuted minority in the world and Christians face the worst persecution in the Middle East for over 1,000 years, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Centre.

In a chilling article the Guardian recently highlighted 25 countries in the region where persecution of Christians is common place and widespread, and in another article the Archbishop of Canterbury estimates that in 38 Anglican communities in the region, Christians “fear for their lives every day.” Many thousands of Christians have been killed, while tens of thousands have been displaced. In 1987 1.4 million Christians lived in Iraq. Around 300,000 are estimated to remain today, and almost no Christians remain in the segments of Iraq and Syria controlled by ISIS.

Of course, working at the Council of Christians and Jews, we are acutely aware of this issue and staff had been discussing for some time the most effective way that our organisation could raise awareness of this humanitarian crisis.

But it wasn’t until I heard a first-hand account from a Syrian priest, who not only had been subject to significant violence himself, but also graphically described scenes that could have been taken out of any genocide, that I knew we had to start working on this issue the very next day.

Only recently, the Christian community in the UK came out in strong support of the Jewish community after events in France and elsewhere in Europe and joined our ‘Still An Issue’ campaign against antiSemitism. Now is an opportunity for our community, all too familiar with suffering of this kind, to demonstrate solidarity for the Christian community in their hour of need.

In creating a uniquely Jewish response to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, we were guided by Rabbi Hillel’s iconic words from Ethics of the Fathers that remind us of the Jewish imperative to take care of others as well as ourselves: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

We took this Jewish philosophy of social justice to create an educational resource, that is based on Jewish liturgy and relevant Jewish thinkers and which has now been distributed to every rabbi in every denomination to provide the basis for prayer and reflection for Christians in the Middle East, during this month and beyond.

In this way, CCJ is bringing Christian and Jewish communities together, around another key issue of concern to both communities, to raise awareness and show solidarity. The Archbishop of Canterbury has reflected that the initiative ”galvanises the Jewish community to use their current and historical experience of persecution as a catalyst for a compassionate and prayerful response to Christians facing persecution in the Middle East”.

‘If Not Now When’ is bringing our community together to amplify our voice on this human tragedy, in a manner that is relevant to us and in the way that we have responded to tragedy for thousands of years: through prayer and reflection. We are acknowledging the suffering of the other at a critical moment. We hope the initiative will become a springboard for greater engagement with Christian and other communities, and that we will continue to reach out to others, learn more about the issues affecting the lives of our neighbours and crucially get involved.

Every day, more innocent lives are being lost. So we need to ask, if not now, when?


Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: