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The Rector: Redeeming our Past

The Rector

Bolton Abbey Parish Magazine

March 2017

Redeeming our Past

I fell asleep and awoke only after the pogrom was over. The sun, in all its glory, was shining on a spectacle of horror. The street was piled high with mutilated bodies. In their ripped-open homes men, women and children lay massacred, disembowelled, shrivelled. Reb Gamaliel: a cross of blood cut into his forehead. Asher, the gravedigger: crucified. Manya, his wife: her throat slashed. Their eight sons and daughters: beaten to death. Where to begin? What to do first? Whom to help?

Elie Wiesel’s account of a pogrom suffered by Jews during Holy Week in pre-revolutionary Russia reminds us that anti-Semitism in
Europe did not begin with the construction of the Nazi death camps; and the recent imprisonment of Joshua Bonehill-Paine and John
Nimmo for a sustained hate campaign, using a deeply offensive anti-Semitic hashtag, against the Liverpool MP Luciana Berger, who
happens to be Jewish, reminds us that anti-Semitism in Europe did not end with the liberation of the Nazi death camps.

The historian Robert Wistrich has called anti-Semitism ‘the longest hatred’. For centuries Christian violence against the Jews of the sort
described by Wiesel was justified by a warped theology, espoused by Christians from earliest times, which viewed Jews as God-killers.
For this reason Holy Week, particularly, was often a dangerous time for Jewish communities. Such theology is now, thankfully, rejected
by most Christians. One of the fruits of this rejection has been a deeper realisation that the Jewish faith of Jesus Christ is key to our
Christian self-understanding. Given this renewed understanding of our origins, and the woeful history of our violence against the Jews,
Christians have a particular responsibility to challenge anti-Semitism wherever, and in whomever, we encounter it.

With prayers for a blessed Lent,

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