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UK Christians and Jews celebrate 75 years of inter-faith relations

Posted on: October 18, 2017 12:44 PM
Archbishop Michael Jackson addresses the Council of Christians and Jews oi its 75th anniversary year
Photo Credit: Elliot Steinberg / CCJ

The Archbishop of Dublin, Michael Jackson, has used a speech to the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) to talk about how people encounter what he termed “the other.” Respect for the other was needed for people of distinct faiths to engage in encounters with one another, he said. And he argued that today’s mass migrations were once again bringing people together who might not otherwise have met, saying: “Neutral territory and public space have become contested once again in ways that are all too familiar to Jewish people in history and today”.

The CCJ is Britain’s oldest inter-faith organisation. Archbishop Michael made his comments in an address at the organisation’s AGM at St John’s Wood Synagogue in north London. He argued that while it was fashionable to blame social media for the slide towards a loss of respect for human dignity, diminishment and demonisation of the other were ancient human instincts.

“The Jewish people have consistently been the recipients of this diminishment as – in the early twentieth century and before the Shoah – were the Armenians. Encounter, storytelling and truth-telling for us together . . . make the journey between the dialogue of life and the dialogue of ideas possible in such a way as to respect the experience and analyse the ideas.”

Being an inter-faith partner required being true to yourself and then being true to others, he said, suggesting that the principle could be expressed as: “Finding the self in God and in the other”.

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The launch of the Council of Christians and Jews is announced in The Times newspaper on 1 Oct 1942.
Photo: CCJ via Twitter

The Council of Christians and Jews was founded by Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple and Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz during World War II. It was a response to the increasing persecution of Jews by the Nazis and was supported by other Christian leaders. An announcement in The Times newspaper on 1 October 1942 said: “The following statement is issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Moderator of the Free Church Federal Council and the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire:-

“The present German Government has consistently attempted to undermine and destroy those traditional religious and spiritual values of mankind in which it recognizes its most dangerous enemies. The course of the war has seen a steady intensification of these attempts, and German conquests have enormously extended the area in which these policies can be ruthlessly applied.

“In the forefront of their efforts to create division within every community, the Nazis have always placed anti-semitism [sic], which is repugnant to the moral principles common to Christianity and Judaism alike. We cannot afford to ignore the effects of the steady propagation of this evil throughout the world. It is not only a message to the unity of every community in which it takes root, but it is the very negation of those values on which alone we believe that a new and better world can be established.

In these circumstances, we are agreed that it would be for the general benefit to form in this country a council of Christians and Jews, which might draw to itself the support in this matter of all men and women of good will. Such a council has now been formed, and, as its joint presidents, we have been gratified by the influential and wholehearted response which has been immediately forthcoming.”

After setting out the Council’s aims, which include tackling religious and racial intolerance, the promotion of mutual understanding and good will between Christians and Jews, and the promotion of fellowship between Christian and Jewish youth organisations, the statement goes on to say that: “His eminence Cardinal Hinsley, Archbishop of Westminster, endorses the condemnation of anti-semitism [sic] and has, since the composition of this statement, joined the council as a joint president as a mark of his strong protest against all persecution of the Jewish people.”

Yesterday’s speech by Archbishop Michael launched a year of celebrations of its anniversary, which is themed around Psalm 133: “How good it is to dwell together”.

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The chair of CCJ, the Bishop of Lichfield, Dr Michael Ipgrave, said: “We are delighted to celebrate CCJ’s 75thanniversary. CCJ was founded in 1942 during the dark days of the Second World War and the Holocaust. It was the first national interfaith network and we remain the leading nationwide forum for Christian / Jewish engagement.

“Our original vision, challenging antisemitism and prejudice in whatever guise, and educating to improve relations within communities, is as relevant today as it was in 1942. This special anniversary will showcase the growth and importance of CCJ in every generation.”

Today, the CCJ announced the appointment of an Anglican deacon, the Revd Patrick Moriarty, as its joint honorary secretary. Moriarty is the head teacher of the Jewish Community Secondary School in New Barnet, London.

In a statement, CCJ said: “Patrick is a passionate advocate for Jewish-Christian relations and views this as ‘something that I seek to live out in my life, in the unique position of being an ordained deacon in the Church of England and the head teacher of a Jewish Secondary School. Having lived all my life as an Anglican amongst the Jewish Community, studied and taught both Christianity and Judaism, and served as a leader of religious / educational institutions of both faiths, I have a honed sensitivity to what unites and separates these two theologies and communities, and a deep yearning for them to grow in appreciation, understanding and respect love for each other’”.

  • The full text of Archbishop Michael Jackson’s speech can be read here.