The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken of the need to move beyond interfaith dialogue characterised by “bland statements of anaemic intent” to urgently address sources of tension – warning that failing to do so would be “disingenuous and ultimately dishonest”.
Justin Welby impassioned plea came during a speech at the Board of Deputies annual dinner in which he reflected on a year blighted by “religiously-sponsored violence” across the globe.
“Within the Christian community we need to stand against our own tendency, when exhibited over many centuries, to violence; violence against each other and above all violence against Jewish communities in horrendous and horrible ways going back well over a millennia,” he told hundreds of guests at the representative body’s annual dinner in central London.
“We need to stop that both with security but also with ideology that subverts the arguments of the radicals. If we don’t do that we leave all the good arguments in the hands of the radicals.”
To achieve that, he argued, there was a need for communities to come together to have “difficult conversations. “We need to move beyond inter-religious interaction in which the usual suspects issue bland statements of anaemic intent with which you could paper the walls of Lambeth Palace – and much good would it do. All desperate to agree with one another so that the very worst outcome could be we end up acknowledging our differences.
“That is not enough in the face of the dangers we face at this time. It is disingenuous and ultimately dishonest because alongside all we hold in common there are profound differences too. True friendships can withstand honestly-held differences in values, opinions and religious understandings.”
The Archbishop – who apologised for the recent actions of Church of England vicar Stephen Sizer and vowed to make every effort to stand alongside the community in the challenges it faces. But in strikingly candid remarks, he warned: “We will fail from time to time. I hope we’ll have the guts, as we have done, to apologise, acknowledge our failure and do better in the future.”
Pledging that his Church would take anti-Semitism seriously, the leader of 18million Anglicans added: “I’ve made in the past one serious mistake on that – failing to stand up and protest about something when I should have done – it was about three years ago – and I will not make that mistake again.”
Welby – whose speech combined an intensely serious message with effortless comedic touches – even touched on the UK elections. “There’s rather a lot of promises around at the moment,” he said. “I’m not saying they’re done dishonourably. It’s just sometimes they’re more hope than expectation.
“My experience of them particularly over last 6 months has been of very honourable people doing very difficult jobs with inadequate resources. They do their best to do it as well as they can. They get it wrong. So do I, constantly.”
The Anglican leader also paid tribute to the “wisdom grace and great insight during extremely challenging times” of President Vivian Wineman, whose six-year term ends this month.
Photo credit: John Rifkin
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.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
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 News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
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.