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Concern for Religious Minorities Around the World

Concern for Religious Minorities Around the World

On Tuesday, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress published this Op-Ed in the New York Times, callingfor a collective voice standing in defense of the Christian minority being persecuted for their religious beliefs in Iraq and the Middle East.

He writes, "In a speech before thousands of Christians in Budapest in June, I made a solemn promise that just as I will not be silent in the face of the growing threat of anti-Semitism in Europe and in the Middle East, I will not be indifferent to Christian suffering. Historically, it has almost always been the other way around: Jews have all too often been the persecuted minority. But Israel has been among the first countries to aid Christians in South Sudan. Christians can openly practice their religion in Israel, unlike in much of the Middle East."

This is a reminder of the responsibility we as Jews, who have always been a minority and long-persecuted throughout history, have to speak against discrimination and violence against others who find themselves such a target.

To that end, Rabbi Rick Block President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and Rabbi Steve Fox, CCAR's chief executive issued a statement on August 11, denouncing the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities by Islamist terrorist groups:

We call on leaders of other religious denominations to condemn the persecution.  Ironically, among the silent are some outspoken critics of Israel, the only country in the Middle East where Christians are safe, allowed to practice their religion freely, and growing in number.  Their silence is especially unconscionable.

We yearn for the coming of the day, “however distant,” in the words of the prophet Micah, when humanity “will never again know war,” and the Biblical commandment to love neighbors and strangers alike will be universally fulfilled.

To read the entirety of the statement, click here.

On Friday, Kenan Malik wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times entitled, "Enough Hate for Everyone: Muslims and Jews are Targets of Bigotry in Europe," an analysis of the rising antagonism towards Jews and Muslims. His article is a timely reminder of the importance of interfaith dialogue and cooperation, and that peace comes through respect and toleration.

Against this background, what is troubling is that many who rightly challenge anti-Semitism do so in a way that fuels anti-Muslim prejudice. Many commentators talk of anti-Semitism as an almost wholly Muslim problem, and have used the growth of anti-Semitism to question the wisdom of allowing Muslim immigration to Europe. Others suggest that Muslim support for Palestine shows that Muslims cannot be truly integrated into Western societies.

Such arguments only entrench further hostility toward “the other,” and so inflame not just anti-Muslim but anti-Jewish sentiment, too. Israel’s action in Gaza should not be a moral shield for complaisance with anti-Semitism in Europe. But neither should anti-Semitism be a moral shield for the justification of anti-Muslim prejudices. Bigots on both sides need to be held to account.

The Reform Movement has long been a voice calling for religious freedom at home and around the world. We cherish our relationships with our interfaith partners and always look forward to opportunities when the faith community can come together around our common goals.

Learn more about the work the RAC and the Reform Jewish Movement is doing on interfaith affairs here.

Learn more about our efforts to end religious persecution here.

 

Published: 8/21/2014

Categories: Social Justice