Recently returned from the 2012 International Council of Christians and Jews Regional conference in Wellington which focused on the “12 Points of Berlin”, Chair of the Australian Council of Christians and Jews, William Szekely, said the document provides sound directions for interfaith goals.
“It is up to us how we are to implement the goals we adopt – that is the challenge we face and the baton with which we should continue to run,” he said.
“The first document, the Ten Points of Seelisberg were promulgated in 1947 when the aftermath of the Second World War was still very much in people’s minds,” Mr.Szkely recalled. They were derived from a strong desire to restore and foster relationships between Jews and Christians which had dramatically deteriorated between 1933 and 1945.
“Those who came together to express the Ten Points did so from a standpoint of the expression of profound grief over the Shoah and its decimation of Jewish society in Europe. The expression was a call to churches which had been unable to prevent the Shoah and had done nothing to help Jews during this terrible period. Christians wanted to make amends and to improve the relations between the churches and the Jews.”
Mr. Szekely went on to explain that the new document which is now a Twelve Point call, resulted from revisiting the Ten Points, looking at the relationships between Christians and Jews over the last 65 years to
examine changes in the relationship and what might still have to be further addressed or reinforced.
“It is a necessary revisiting of the whole basis of the relationship between Christians and Jews,” he said adding that since 1947 there have been many statements of support for the relationships between the churches and the Jews from the Protestant and Catholic churches, which he suggested need degrees of revisiting, to enable a better, clearer, even more honest and open understanding between Christians and Jews.
“There is sadly still entrenched anti-Semitism out there> The Christian Orthodox churches have not been, in my view, as progressive as the Catholic and Protestant churches, and there is the need to differentiate between what some church leaders have, in my view, misguidedly labelled legitimate criticism of Israel, and anti-Semitism.
“Additionally there does need to be a greater level of understanding by the churches of what Israel, Eretz Yisrael, means to Jews, and that the degree of sensitivity to criticism within Jewish communities needs to be well or better understood.
“The Jewish responses to the Twelve Points reflect the need for a greater understanding of Jews by Christians but also as stated in the Points, a greater recognition by Jews of what steps have been taken in the last 62 years.
“I think it fair to say that Jewish communities and those Christian communities committed to the interfaith dialogue process do very well recognise that the Jewish-Christian relationship is not a “problem” that is going to be “solved” as such, but rather that we are likely to get closer to a better relationship by engaging continually in a process of learning about each other and by seeking to refine expressions of the relationship” the Australian Council chair said.
“That is what a review and responses to the Twelve Points is all about. Its dissemination and consideration is is a vital priority in order to achieved the objectives of the Points themselves.”