ICCJ President's Greetings for 2018

A letter for the New Year 2018 from ICCJ President Rev. Dr Bo Sandahl to the members and friends of the ICCJ and to all engaged in Jewish-Christian dialogue

Dear friends,

We are part of something that is as pioneering as it is pivotal. The work that started with the Seelisberg conference 70 years ago is by no means finished. On the contrary, new difficulties and challenges keep emerging. In Sweden, the past few weeks have seen antisemitic outbursts that have left us questioning. Following president Trump's declaration on the status of Jerusalem, there was an instant escalation of violence and threats against Swedish Jews. The groups of people that took to the streets in violent protests were often of Middle Eastern heritage, and as is well known, there is a widespread anti-Semitism in the Middle East. Several other European countries also saw similar events unfold as we did in Sweden.

It's deeply worrisome when media reports on these surges in antisemitic violence and threats, making a causal connection between the Trump statement and these violent outbursts against Jews, labelling the latter as protests against the politics of the state of Israel. By making such a causal connection, media risk presenting the violence as a legitimate and rational reaction. Sheer antisemitism is guised as something else. We need to understand and keep repeating that antisemitism is not rational. It’s not based on facts, it is an ideology with a life of its own, regardless of what goes on in the world. It feeds on prejudice and conspiracy theories, and is propagated by ruthless racists. Antisemitism is immune against both rationality and compassion, and is as such a true enemy of humanity.

So, what is the role of the ICCJ and its member organizations in reacting to antisemitic tendencies? Today, interreligious dialogue between Christians and Muslims tend to gain more public attention than Jewish-Christian dialogue. It is seen as more politically relevant and as a greater challenge. There is also Jewish-Muslim dialogue in many places. One initiative is based in Malmö, Sweden, close to where I live and work. The initiative is called Amanah, and involves Jews and Muslims of various affiliations. The ICCJ welcomes all such initiatives with open hearts, every initiative that builds bridges between Jews, Christians and Muslims is something we support whole-heartedly. As an international umbrella organization, we contribute to Jewish-Christian-Muslim dialogue through our International Abrahamic Forum (IAF).

Even if Jewish-Christian dialogue isn't gaining the public attention or support we would hope for, our work remains crucial. In these times of distress and animosity, our work must be a beacon. Together we can help pave the way for hope and understanding, open the doors of dialogue and invite our neighbors to share the riches of our faith traditions with us. Our goal must be to incorporate more communities into our union, among the Christians I am especially thinking of the Eastern/Orthodox churches, and the many substantial Evangelical communities. What we have accomplished within a historically short time-frame should fill us with confidence and trust. Where we are today, where the ICCJ and its members are today, shows that dialogue is indeed possible. Mutual respect for our unique traits and a will to learn is the right soil in which future dialogue will grow. Together, it's up to us to cultivate it, and in due time, we will be able to harvest and celebrate more accomplishments.

With these words I as ICCJ President, the members of the ICCJ Executive Board, its General Secretary Anette Adelmann and the staff at the Martin-Buber-House in Heppenheim wish you all a happy and blessed 2018!
And, we hope to see you in Hungary in the summer at ICCJ's annual conference that will take place in Budapest and Kecskement from Sunday, June 24, till Wednesday, June 27.