Christian & Jewish
Conference bookings can now be made
Pope condemns new antisemitism
The Australian Council of Christians and Jews annual conference, conjointly with the postponed
annual general meeting will be held from 12.30 pm on April 2 in the Theatrette of the Sydney Jewish
Museum, 144 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst. The conference will "open" on the preceding
evening with a three denominational choral concert at St. Francis, Paddington.
Pope Benedict has told the chief rabbi of Rome that he is worried and pained by outbreaks of
renewed antisemitism, of which manifestations are becoming evident in many parts of the world.
Have you made your reservation to be at the 2006 Australian Council Conference at the Jewish Museum, 148 Darlinghurst Road Darlinghurst, Sydney April 2 from 12.00 noon
To register, please phone 0412 564 956 or
This earlier than usual March issue of Scene contains the information on the Council’s second national conference to be held in Sydney on April 2. It is to be hoped that members of the various communities take this opportunity to come together, particularly in the light of the prominence of the participants in the three panel sessions being presented in the afternoon of that day. With the event being held at the Sydney Jewish Museum, attendees (admission is free) have the opportunity of being given a tour of the Museum by one of its expert guides prior to the commencement of the afternoon’s conference program. This in itself represents a bonus for those who have not shared the experience of this unique museum environment. The issue is graced by articles featuring the two rabbinical names most linked to the Great Synagogue in Sydney, Rabbis Apple and Lawrence, the latter’s being a transcript of his eloquent welcome to a large audience attending the celebration late last year of the 40th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate. Rabbi Lawrence has also recently instituted a modern method of communicating with his congregants by the use of text messaging, an innovation which could well be considered by ministers of religion of all denominations as being valuable, particularly in that this is the communication method of today’s younger generation. Lastly, SCENE commends to its readers the three denomination choral concert which will mark the opening of the annual conference. It will be remembered that the first of these, held at Temple Emanuel in Woollahra in 2004 was an outstanding success, from a musical and ecumenical standpoint and this year’s event, to be held at St. Francis in Paddington, promises to provide an evening of outstanding musical and spiritual experience.
The Amity Foundation was founded in 1985 on the initiative of Chinese Christians to promote education, health, social welfare and rural development in China. As the Foundation celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, it invited representatives from oversea's Christian churches to see some of its work. I joined an ecumenical Christian group of 12 from Australia to see some of the great sights of China, meet representatives of the Chinese church and visit some of the work of the Foundation, which is supported through the Christmas Bowl and other ecumenical appeals. China is clearly in the midst of change, becoming a consumer society with a general sense of freedom, although there are certainly many people being left behind. In Shanghai, the group met with representatives of the China Christian Council, the official Protestant church organisation. The church describes itself as “post-denominational”, encompassing a range of church styles and traditions without the denominational boundaries with which western Christians are so familiar. When my group attended a Sunday morning service in Shanghai, the style was Presbyterian and traditional, the 400 or so strong congregation containing a significant proportion of younger people, the hymns were Western ? an attendant found some old hymn books with the English words to the hymns being sung.
Something worth exploring
The officially registered church has maintained a conservative theology, with an Episcopal structure. In its bookshop, there were Bibles and a range of Christian literature. The church is growing, and conservative estimates indicate that there are at least 30 million Christians in China ? some would double that figure. Christianity is seen by many people as something worth exploring, although it is certainly difficult for Christians to gain promotion in government- controlled areas of employment. One of the big issues when thinking about Christianity in China is the government’s relationship with the Church. The “Three-Self Patriotic Movement” approved by the government insists that the church be self-supporting, self-propagating and self-governing. Obviously the aim is to keep religious groups free from outside interference, but it is clear that there is a significant amount of government interference.
No officially approved expression of the Jewish faith
How much, and what the effects are, are hotly debated inside and outside China. We visitors were told that the registered church has complete freedom to worship, teach, witness and serve. But it is reasonable to assume that the government keeps a close eye on what happens in the church. Clearly there are boundaries that are not to be crossed: at the very least, the church must not criticise the government or involve itself in political activity which might be seen as a threat to the government. The Catholic Patriotic Association, the registered Catholic Church, has millions of members but is officially out of communion with the Pope. (There is also an unofficial traditional Catholic Church which is apparently recognised by the Pope). However, at a formal level, there is no officially approved expression of the Jewish faith for the very small number of Jewish residents of China.
However, there are also millions of people who belong to unregistered Protestant churches. Some see no need to get involved in the process of registration: many however see both the government and the established church almost as “the enemy”. Stories about Christians being persecuted in China generally involve members of unregistered (“underground”) churches. The persecution is spasmodic, but can be brutal. It is a sign of a government with a degree of paranoia as it tries to keep control in a time of rapid change. Amity has repaired school buildings, provided educational resources, trained teachers and doctors, provided clean water, arranged small loans for people to establish themselves with regular income, replanted trees to overcome soil erosion, arranged for ditches to be dug to prevent floods. The Foundation has also printed more than 30 million Bibles with the approval of the Chinese Government. Its web site provides further information. It was encouraging to see an increasing religious freedom in China and indeed a growing interest in spiritual issues. How the government handles this, along with the broader demand for freedom in the vast country, remains to be seen.
new Scene Column by Laurel Snyder
When I was asked to write for Jewish & Christian Scene, my initial response was, “Why me?”
But then I thought about how, when I began work on my new anthology, “Half/Life: Jewish Tales from
Interfaith Homes”, I had a similar emotional response. I may not be an expert in the traditional
sense, but I do have a right to speak. And not simply because I was born into a Jewish/Christian
intermarriage and can speak to the issues that face a child exposed to both worlds, but because ?
being born into a blended religious family ? you will always ask yourself questions relating to
legitimacy. So perhaps I not only have the right to speak, but the obligation.
|Five days of Choral Music in July
Southern Cathedrals Festival (SCF) 2006, the popular annual five day festival of choral music
which features the choirs of Chichester, Salisbury and Winchester Cathedrals, is hosted by Salisbury
Cathedral from 19 – 23 July. SCF 2006 will also showcase young musicians and the impressive
music-making which is so much a part of Salisbury's life throughout the year.
Nostra Aetate 40th Anniversary
|A packed Sydney Great Synagogue made up of invited guests from every sphere of the ecumenical, religious, educational and legal world heard the Synagogue’s Chief Minister, Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence (pictured here) welcome and introduce a moving ceremony to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate — an event addressed by such luminaries as the NSW Governor, The Hon. Marie Bashir — herself patron of the NSW Council of Christians and Jews — CCJ co-founder, Rabbi Raymond Apple and H.E. Cardinal Cassidy.
And may we be wise in the traditions of the Talmudic sage Ben Zoma. Who is wise asked ben Zoma? He who learns from everyone, he explained. May God extend His tabernacle of peace over us all. May we learn from each other and may He bless us as we continue our critical conversation.
cardinal visits Adelaide hospital patients
Papal emissary Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan visited patients at Calvary Health Care Adelaide recently in the lead up to the 14th World Day of the Sick held in Adelaide for the first time. Cardinal Lozano Barragan heads the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care opens the World Day of the Sick with a keynote address at a conference focusing on mental health and human dignity at the Adelaide Convention Centre. Other conference speakers include renowned psychiatrist Professor Ian Hickie, author and member of the New South Wales Mental Health Review, Anne Deveson and actor and board member of Beyond Blue Garry McDonald. The international event attracted Catholic bishops and clergy, conference delegates and health professionals and care-givers from across the world. World Day of the Sick was inaugurated by Pope John Paul II in 1992 to focus attention on human suffering and to the vital role of care-givers of the sick and elderly. Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson said: "World Day of the Sick will challenge us to engage and experience the needs of those who are most vulnerable in our society. We will endeavour to make inroads into what has become one of the biggest health problems affecting the world today."
The truth will set you free
an edited version of Rabbi Raymond Apple’s
20th Anniversary oration to the Council of
Christians and Jews (Vic)
In a previous incarnation — surely a permissible reference at an inter-religious event — I was a professional youth worker. At one of the youth clubs I visited, a teenager, possessed of the unrivalled wisdom of the very young, confidently informed me that “anyone over 20 is a has-been”. Seeing that all this happened many years ago, the wise young man is now probably highly middle aged with children of his own who are well into their 20s or even older. Fortunately he is unlikely to remember his exchange with me but I not only remember but want to apply it. For now that the Victorian CCJ is 20, there may well be a need to ask whether the organisation which had its beginnings under impressive circumstances, is on the way to becoming a has-been. It is of course tempting to use superficial criteria such as how many people are paid up members, whether there are good attendances at meetings and other programs and whether the organisation can balance its books. These are not unimportant but the real question goes much deeper.
The wall of separation is still there
It is concerned with whether the work has helped to build a climate of harmony, understanding and mutual respect. The answer is yes, and it is also no. We have still not succeeded in discovering each other’s unique identity. For Jews, it is history, hope, land and peoplehood, as well as religion — or rather all are part of religion for the Jew. For Christians it is the word made flesh, man’s fall, God’s grace, intermediation and resurrection. To the Jew, as Martin Buber said, the Christian is too daring, the Jew too obdurate. The result is the wall of separation, actual or virtual that is still there despite the joy we feel in often regarding the other as a member of our own family. In my own family it would have been unthinkable not to invite priests, nuns, clergy and colleagues from the religions — we were part of each other. But back to the wall, a Berlin Wall that separated us long before Berlin was ever thought of. If it were merely what Paul calls “the middle wall of partition”, it would not be so bad. Unfortunately it is more likely — to quote Paul again — to have for most of its history been “the dividing wall of hostility”.
We have no choice
Who built the wall? Two convictions as to truth. What will remove the wall? Because we are each distinctive, the divide will remain. The question is will it be the fence that marks off one friendly neighbour from another and not a high, solid wall of hostility. It will not be easy, despite our reconciliation and cordiality. We may never reach a full agreement about truth — but we may jointly reach some truths about truth. Till 9/11 and 7/7 we thought we could smile and get away with conventional pleasantries as “they’re all paths to God, after all.” But now we have no choice, now that we have been caught up in events that show there are some people whose fierce commitment to their truth impels them to want to conquer the world.
For others world conquest is not their agenda but they believe in spiritual coercion. We have good reason to fear both approaches because zealots and negativists do not engage in dialogue. Dialogue in all its senses is a sharing in which all make room for each other, not just because pragmatic realities demand it but if we can find the appropriate conceptual framework, we can base on a sustaining idea. There are two messages for our situation. The first is that there are truths in many traditions, but one’s deepest commitment must be to one’s own; the second, that though our distinctive identities are separated by a “middle wall of partition”, others must be respected, not humiliated or delegitimised, turning the partition into a dividing wall of hostility.
Our duty: to find each other, not destroy each other
The evidence all around us is that there is a lack of respect. Fanatics and negativists blow up trains, buses, places of work or worship and fellow human beings. For them the victim is nothing, however precious, clever, decent, trying simply to live in dignity; all is dispensable in the onslaught of ferocity. In the end the perpetrator too is nothing, making no contribution to civilisation, no contribution to anything, not even to his or her own cause. Mankind at large, in Jewish teaching, has the seven Noachide Laws, to which we might feel like adding an eighth — ”survive, live, preserve the world and its civilisation!” Our duty is to find each other, not to destroy each other. Part of that duty is to acknowledge the necessary ambiguities which make it possible to find room for us all. But the details are not up to me. I do not believe I can bring the moment closer by forcing my Judaism on others, regardless of their own conscience. Nor, I hope, will others feel they have to coerce me into their camp. The wall of partition may remain, but to ensure it never again becomes a dividing wall of hostility we have to dedicate life in what the Hebrew sages call “the world of action” to living as brothers and sisters.
20 years on, CCJ Victoria has much to celebrate
Some of the finest minds and noblest of spirits in the religious spectrum have given it their energies and inspiration. On one level or another, CCJ Victoria has helped to break down old stereotypes that were left behind from the times of hostility. It may not have penetrated the grass roots far or widely enough but that is a task for the future. But it has issued academically creditable documents, come to grips with a series of agonising conceptual issues, formulated theologically tenable positions and spear-headed appropriate advocacy on issues that needed a common religious voice. In the meantime there is vigour and vision in the organisation that ensure it is far from becoming a has-been.
Around the World
Czech churches deplore 'communist' law on religion
Protestant 'saint' who opposed Hitler remembered