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The 23rd meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC) took place in Warsaw, 4-7 April 2016 and our Brother Bent Melchior attended the meeting. We have the pleasure to reproduce his report below:

4-7 April 2016 I had the honor to represent BBE at a meeting of the International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee (ILC) in Warsaw. ILC holds biennial meetings since 1971. The Catholic representatives are appointed from the Pontifical Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews. The head of the delegation in Warsaw was Cardinal Kurt Koch, who is appointed by the Pope as the official contact person on matters related to the Jewish world. Most of the non- Polish delegates were European, but there were also delegates from Israel, Brasil and USA.

The Jewish participants come from International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC), which was established by 12 organizations, most of them American. There are religious bodies from both orthodox, conservative and reform Jewry as well as American Jewish Committee, ADL, World Jewish Congress and BBI. The head of the Jewish participants was Mr. Martin Budd, who is the chairman of ADL in USA. The BBI was represented by David Michaels, the Director of International Affairs. Apart from the Polish participants and observers we were two Europeans, of which one is representative of American Jewish Committee to the Holy See. Not one person from the bigger Jewish communities in France, UK or Germany. I was the only real European and was proud to represent BBE.

The subjects of the meeting were The "Other" in Jewish and Catholic Tradition and Refugees in Today's World. To protect and even love the stranger is an often repeated obligation in both the Jewish Bible and the New Testament. Several speakers had made research on the subject and gave us learned lectures on how to understand and implement these obligations in our time. Pope Francis was quoted often as a voice from the religious world taking action in the political field.

The deliberations focused on the practical and moral challenges of the refugee crisis overwhelming much of Europe today, with an emphasis on how the two religious communities might provide support for all those, who suffer as a result of armed conflicts. Additionally, the alarming increase of anti-Semitism and the violent persecution of Christians in many parts of the world were discussed. Participants also addressed the situation of Catholics and Jews in Poland, both historically and present.

The delegates visited the Nazi concentration camp Treblinka to confirm their commitment to preserve the memory of the Holocaust. At the opening ceremony the Yad Vashem "Righteous Among the Nations" recognition was bestowed posthumously upon three Polish individuals. The program also included a guided tour of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Unfortunately, I could not participate in these tours, which were too difficult for my legs to overcome.

It is in itself an important situation that the two religious communities conduct a dialogue. The question is, whether we could let some kind of action follow the many nice words. We are talking a lot about refugees and Muslims. I suggested – again – that we should not only talk about these people, but also talk with them. Invite representatives to our meetings and let them present their case to us. The new problems for the Christians in many Muslim countries could be an area, where we could join in action. It was my feeling that there was a fear of pointing too direct towards the Muslim community and place responsibility for the persecutions. It was promised that we in between the biennial meetings should have an ongoing contact to consider possible interventions.
It was stated a few times that my presence fulfilled the wish of having a European Jewish voice in the audience. BBE will have to decide, whether the outcome of that kind of meetings justifies the expenses in time and money.

Bent Melchior. May 1st 2016

The aim of the project “Bridges of Tolerance” is to disseminate information about the contribution of the Jewish minority group to the local culture (1), to fight the growing anti-Semitism in Europe through education (2), to encourage a public debate about the efficiency of the existing tools and modes of implementation of Hate Crime through the existing legislation (3) and to bring about an inter-faith dialogue between Jews and Christians on the basic values of our Judeo-Christian civilization (4).

In order to achieve our aims, the project has two components: cultural shows and workshops with panel discussions.

In Bucharest Romania, we worked together with our representative, the President of B’nai B’rith, Forum Dr. Moses Rosen, Jose Iacobescu. Due to his tremendous effort and extensive network, all doors to the government Ministries, Parliament and Presidency were open for us.


June 3d. morning

The first day opened at the Ministry of Culture with the theme: The role of Education in combating anti-Semitism and the importance of keeping the Memory of the Holocaust Alive. Participated around 650 persons. The workshop was organized by BB Romania in collaboration with the Lauder school complex President and the Minister of Culture. 450 students from various high schools from the Bucharest region took part in this event. First we watched a short documentary about the life of a Holocaust survivor; then the students commented on the film. After a short break, three survivors of the Holocaust in Romania, at age 92-94, came to tell their stories live. After another short break, the Minister of Culture, several academicians, history professors, the inspector of education responsible for the school books, spoke of the Holocaust and the importance of educating the young. We closed with a light lunch.

2a              3b





June 3d. evening                                                                                                                                                                           

The official opening took place at the National Opera House
(capacity 1000 people). It was opened by Jose Iacobescu, BB Romania, myself, the 1st Councilor of the President of Romania and the Speaker of the Romanian Parliament. The Councilor read a message from the President, saying that from next year they would be honored if we accept the project to be under the
 High Patronage of the President (of course we accepted the offer). After the speeches, we could enjoy an opera and operetta concert of one and half hour, with 12 different soloists of the Opera House. The evening ended with champagne cocktails.


8a




June 4th, morning

jour 2  erike et jose 

                                                                                                                                                                          
The workshop was held at the Parliament, under the auspices of the Speaker of the House. Here we had three sessions:
                                                                                                                                                                        
 1. The contributions of the Jews to the Romanian culture: literature, arts. Speakers: the Minister of Culture, the president of the Federation of Romanian Jewish Communities, Prof. in Anthropology, specialists in literature and painting; this was followed by discussions.

2. The role of Law and Order; Legislation on Hate crime. Speakers: the President of the Parliament, the President of the Court of Magistrates, the Chief Inspector of Police. Followed by discussions.

Lunch

3. Ethics and Philosophy: An Inter-Faith Dialogue: debate on tolerance/intolerance, mutual respect in a cultural diversity. Speakers: the Director of the Romanian National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, Bucharest University, the office of the Patriarch of Romania. Followed by discussion.

June 4th, evening: dinner with the international guests

June the 5th morning:

10a


Workshop at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The role of Diplomacy

Speakers: the Minister of Foreign Affairs, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Undersecretary of State, myself, head of Romanian IHRA delegation; head of Hungarian IHRA delegation; it was followed by discussion. It ended with a lunch/buffet offered by the ministry.

Departure of the international guests: BB representatives from Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland, friends from Turkey and the University of Bologna (department of education of religions); head of IHRA delegation of Hungary (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, they have the presidency of IHRA this year; next year will be Romania).

Among the audience were Ambassadors, representatives of the political life, Academia, Art world, other religious denominations, TV, Press, Municipality etc. and the 450 high school students.

All press was positive. Video, photos and press (all in Romanian) will be sent to me shortly.                                                                 

My thanks go to Jose Iacobescu and his team without whose help and hard work none of this would have been realized.



Erika van Gelder  BBE president              



For more:

Read this poem written by Erika Van Gelder : The Silence



It started with some small incidents
“ It’s nothing, it’s just a rogue”,
They thought…
Broken windows   in Synagogues,
“Kids playing ball”,
They thought…
Swastikas on Jewish tombs,
"They’ll get those hooligans”,
They thought…
Old men were beaten, young girls were raped
“It can’t get any worst”,
They prayed …
Then, in the night the sirens blared
their names…
By dawn they were in Dante’s flames.
Yet come the morrow,
Nothing was said and nothing was done…
Only the wind and smoke
Broke the silence
of their sorrow.  


 

Erika van Gelder

Amsterdam, 22/5/2015




                                                                                                                                              

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