First, today is being marked here in Israel as Yom HaShoah, the Day of Remembrance for the victims of the Holocaust. Second, yesterday Pope Benedict XVI announced in Rome the beatification of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II, of blessed memory. Finally, on the other hand, the world has just learned of the location and killing of arch-terrorist Osama Bin Laden.
Some of you may disagree with me, but I see a connection among these three events. The connection is the free will of human beings to choose to do good or evil. While circumstances sometimes limit our choices, we still have the ability to choose between good and evil, or, as the Bible states (Deut. 30:19), “life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life…” I would like to recommend a wonderful piece by an American imam, reflecting on Yom HaShoah: go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/imam-abdullah-antepli/imam-reflection-on-yom-hashoah_b_856074.html. This is an eloquent example of the fact that the campaign against Bin Laden and his ilk was not and should never become a campaign against one of the world’s great religions.
Pope John Paul II may be a controversial figure in some circles, for some of his views, but I hope that all will agree that he was a righteous rescuer during the Shoah and that his early experiences during that period influenced him later on to be a pioneer for the advancement of inter-religious dialogue. In two months, when we meet for our conference in Cracow, where he served as Archbishop, we will honor his memory. We will also, of course, visit the Center for Dialogue and Prayer located at the site of Auschwitz-Birkenau and devote a day of the conference to the legacy of the Nazi period in world history in general and European history in particular.
The Bible in Proverbs 24:17 enjoins us not to rejoice in the downfall of our enemy. I must say that I view with some concern the victory celebrations that are going on now in parts of the US. I, too, am pleased that the individual Osama Bin Laden will no longer be able to plan and lead terrorist activities. But the threat of jihadism as a warped interpretation of Islam is still with us. In that spirit, I would like to conclude with a quotation from the Qur’an, Sura 41, verses 34-35. "Repel (evil) with what is better. Then will he, between whom and thee was hatred, become as it were thy friend and intimate. And no one will be granted such goodness except those who exercise patience and self-restraint."
I hope to see many of you in Cracow.
Until then, best wishes from Jerusalem