European Christians Move to Correct Horrors of the Past

ANTI-SEMITISM

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European Christians Move to Correct Horrors of the Past
IN RECENT YEARS, the streets of Europe have become an increasingly dangerous place for Jews. From Geneva to Rome and from Berlin to Madrid, the age-old hatred engendered by anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head once again, instilling fear into the hearts of many regarding what the future portends.

Dutch Jewish filmmaker Leon de Winter perhaps summed it up best when he told the Suddeutsche Zeitung last October: "The old poison of anti-Semitism is very much alive... I will remain a stranger on this continent... I fear that in Europe something will once more be done against the Jews."

Sadly, there is ample statistical data to back up this sentiment. A recent report issued by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University concluded that 2004 was "the most violent year in the past 15 years" in terms of anti-Jewish incidents, noting that "physical attacks on Jews were the most salient feature."

In France, for example, the number of anti-Semitic attacks soared by more than 60 percent compared with 2003. These included physical assaults on Jews, the fire-bombings of Jewish institutions and the desecration of Jewish cemeteries. Even the dead, it seems, are not being allowed to rest in peace.

And don't think the problem is confined to Paris. According to the UK's Jewish Community Security Trust, the group that monitors threats to British Jewry, there was a 42% increase last year in anti-Semitic attacks over 2003.

Many observers have begun to despair, sensing that despite all the efforts made throughout the years to combat Jew-hatred, Europe remains hopelessly mired in the prejudice of the past.

As British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks put it: "After more than half a century of Holocaust education... What more could have been done? What more could and can we do to fight anti-Semitism?"

The answer, I think, may lie in marshalling one of the great untapped resources of philo-Semitism, one whose presence throughout Europe continues to grow in number: Bible-believing Christians.

Yes, that's right, Christians can and do have an important role to play in countering the growing intolerance toward Jews in much of Europe, for both moral and religious reasons.


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OVER THE COURSE of the past two millennia unprecedented acts of cruelty have been inflicted on the Jews in the name of Christianity. Massacres, expulsions, forced conversions and confiscation of property were repeated across the centuries, making Jewish life in Europe fragile and perilous.

What could be more fitting than for European Christians today to stand up and try to correct in some small way the horrors of the past? Moreover, from a biblical perspective there is ample reason to do so. As God told Abraham: "I will bless those that bless thee and curse those that curse thee" (Genesis 12). By choosing to side with the Jewish people against those who seek to do them harm, Christians will be acting in accordance with the Divine will.

ICEJ International Director Jurgen Buehler speaks with Shlomo Ravel from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, at on the European Coalition for Israel's Europe Day reception at the ICEJ, in May. (Photo: Sherwood Burton/ICEJ)

Indeed, one of the most exciting initiatives launched in recent years is dedicated precisely to that goal: bringing together Christian groups and individuals to lobby on Israel's behalf and counter the growing threat posed by anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

It is called the European Coalition for Israel and it consists of four key partners: Bridges for Peace, Christian Friends of Israel, Christians for Israel and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.

Based in Brussels, the coalition undertakes a range of activities to promote closer relations between the European Union and the Jewish state, including publishing a monthly newsletter, organizing conferences and seminars in European capitals and meeting with leading members of the European Parliament.

Several months ago, former European Parliament member Rijk Van Dam (right) became director of the coalition, and he has been working hard to boost Israel's image on a hostile continent.

"Fighting anti-Semitism is the main priority for our coalition," Van Dam told me. "I think anti-Zionism is very close to anti-Semitism," he said.

An incident that inspired him to get involved occurred last year. He was walking down a street in the heart of a major European city and noticed a building heavily guarded by police, with special precautions being taken to protect it from a terrorist attack. Upon further inspection he saw that the target was neither a foreign embassy nor a diplomatic residence, but a pre-school for Jewish children.

"So today, in the center of Europe, a Jewish European Coalition for Israel Director, Rijk Van Dam (Sherwood Burton/ICEJ)

kindergarten has to be behind a high concrete wall, like in a bunker. This is frightening," he said.

While acknowledging that the idea of Bible-believing Christians taking an active role in European politics is somewhat novel, Van Dam said it was particularly necessary in these hazardous times.

"In the past, many horrible things were done to the Jewish people in the name of Christianity and we want to repent for that," he said. "It is especially important that we as Christians speak out against the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe and make our voices heard."

While the challenge of confronting deep-seated European hostility to Jews is no easy task, groups such as the European Coalition for Israel can and will make a difference.

For the first time, the Jews of Europe may not have to worry about confronting home-grown anti-Semites on their own. If the work of the coalition bears fruit, as it hopefully will, they can look forward to having thousands of pro-Israel Christians standing at their side.

 

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