Letter from Auschwitz from the Archbishop in Jerusalem

Reflections from Archbishop Suheil Dawani following his visit to Poland last month

Between 31 October and 2 November, Archbishop Suheil joined religious leaders – Muslim, Jewish and Christians – in Poland to visit ghetto areas in Warsaw before journeying to Krakow and Auschwitz. The Archbishop prayed for all victims of hate crime and gave the following reflection:

“When we hear of wars and rumors of wars, we think we understand what it might mean to be caught up in that chaos. When we hear of atrocities and rumors of atrocities, we think we know what it might be like to be in an atrocity. Who can comprehend what it is like for the innocent to suffer; except the innocent themselves. The pain of grief can only be understood by those who grieve.

We know that the pain of this place, and the pain of the Holocaust still runs deep in the consciousness of Jewish society and all who suffered here.

All peoples who have been subjected to genocide – who have been victims of ethnic violence – have scars that they carry, scars that have changed them. Such suffering reminds us of the atrocities occurring today in the Middle East and throughout the world, where a language of hatred so often precedes acts of violence against innocent human beings. Sadly, we see this violence – again and again – being carried out throughout the world in the name of God. We must not be indifferent to this: this is not the God whom we know and whom we worship, who is full of kindness, compassion and speaks of love, justice and mercy. As the former Chief Rabbi in the UK, Lord Jonathan Sacks, has said: Religion must be part of the solution not part of the problem.

For us today, religious leaders from the City that is Holy to all, Jerusalem, we, I believe, have a primary duty to acknowledge, lament, and weep over the scars inflicted by the holocaust and in other places and communities where there is pain; not least in our Region. That is our first duty.

Our second duty is to remember that the mystery of God is that God can turn darkness into light; despair into joy; hatred into friendship; war into peace. The God described and understood by the Abrahamic faiths works this mystery and we find it echoed in our shared history and in our scriptures: a vision of a world where there is no more weeping heard, where we can plant vineyards and eat their fruit, where the wolf and the lamb shall feed together (cf. Isaiah 65, 17-25). It is a vision where our differences are laid aside, so our humanity can be celebrated, as we live together side-by-side.

Standing here with my brothers and sisters, I stand as a human being recognizing that each and every human being is made in the image and likeness of God, and that the scars they carry God carries too, urging us not to forget but to learn that we must all of us work for a future where our children and our grandchildren can live together in harmony not in fear and mistrust. This is our vision; this, I believe, is God’s vision. And so, we walk humbly with our God loving justice and mercy (Micah 6:8), the justice and mercy which brings peace; a peace that can be formed in Jerusalem, the cradle of the prophets and the heavenly messages. This is the peace for all nations; for all people. This is our peace.”

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