OPINION: Empathise with Christian plight

OPINION: Empathise with Christian plight

Elliot Steinberg
Elliot Steinberg

By Elliot Steinberg

Elliot Steinberg
Elliot Steinberg

V’im lo achshav, eimatai? If Not Now, When?

Even in the time of the Mishnah, our sages understood our inclination to procrastinate, to turn away from more difficult tasks and leave them until later. And so Hillel ends his Jewish philosophy of social justice: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

That’s why the Council of Christians and Jews’ If Not Now When initiative is a month of prayer and reflection on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, particularly by ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Jewish communities across the country are being encouraged to take part in small acts of prayer and/or spiritual reflection on this suffering and to reach out to Christian communities local to them in friendship and solidarity. This is not a political campaign, rather an opportunity to establish relationships between Christians and Jews here in the UK.

We do not expect this issue to become the Jewish community’s central concern. We are, of course, aware of the heightened sense of threat many Jewish centres feel after the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen and we know that anti-Semitism is an issue that still confronts many Jewish individuals and communities in 2015.

Yet we must admit that, fortunately, our communities in Britain are not facing the same direct, acute threat of violence and death that is decimating Christian communities across the Middle East.

Christians have supported us in combating anti-Semitism, now we are asking the Jewish community to offer support in return. By identifying and appreciating each other’s struggles, we form a better foundation for meaningful relationships.

Now is the time to show solidarity with Christians who are being attacked, tortured and killed in Iraq and Syria.

Now is the time to empathise with Christians in our own country whose faith is being challenged in a way with which we are all too familiar.

Now is the time to add our voices to the prayers of support, comfort and peace to those already being recited by our Christian neighbours around the world. Because if not now, when?

Elliot Steinberg is programme manager of the Council of Christians and Jews. For more information about the initiative, email cjrelations@ccj.org.uk

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