No Place Ever for Anti-Semitism
Sr Marie Andre Mitchell SND – Anti-Semitism continues to raise its ugly head, even in South Africa, as recent press reports have shown. Yet, this year, we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Seelisberg Conference on anti-Semitism.
The agenda of the conference, which took place in Seelisberg, central Switzerland, in 1947, included finding reasons for the anti-Semitism which existed even after World War II, the horror of the Holocaust, and developing measures to combat it.
Looking back at the conference from the vantage of today, it is remarkable to note with what farsightedness and socio-political realism the participants were able to lay the foundation for theological dialogue between Jews and Christians.
Today it is acceptable to speak about a Judeo-Christian tradition; this would have been unimaginable in 1947.
A group of Jewish, Catholic and Protestant theologians produced a series of ten recommendations at Seelisberg which form the cornerstones of Jewish-Christian dialogue, and these are just as relevant today.
The recommendations were fully integrated into 1965’s Nostra Aetate, the ground-breaking Vatican II document, which in Article 4 clearly sets out the relationship of the Church with the Jewish people.
The Truths Christians should Know and Embrace
- One God speaks to us all through the Old and the New Testaments.
- Jesus was born of a Jewish mother of the seed of David and the people of Israel, and that his everlasting love and forgiveness embraces his own people and the whole world.
- The first disciples, the apostles and the first martyrs were Jews.
- Remember that the fundamental commandment of Christianity, to love God and one’s neighbour, proclaimed already in the Old Testament and confirmed by Jesus, is binding upon both Christians and Jews in all human relationships, without any exception.
- Avoid distorting or misrepresenting biblical or post-biblical Judaism with the object of extolling Christianity.
- Avoid using the word “Jews” in the exclusive sense of the enemies of Jesus, and the words “the enemies of Jesus” to designate the whole Jewish people.
- Don’t present the Passion in such a way as to bring the odium of the killing of Jesus upon all Jews or upon Jews alone. It was only a section of the Jews in Jerusalem who demanded the death of Jesus, and the Christian message has always been that it was the sins of mankind which were exemplified by those Jews and the sins in which all men share that brought Christ to the Cross.
- Avoid referring to the scriptural curses, or the cry of a raging mob, “His blood be upon us and our children”, without remembering that this cry should not count against the infinitely more weighty words of our Lord: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
- Stop promoting the superstitious notion that the Jewish people are reprobate, accursed, reserved for a destiny of suffering.
- Don’t speak of the Jews as if the first members of the Church had not been Jews.
Sr Marie Andre Mitchell SND, SACBC Department of Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue