Standing up for those being put down.
Wonderful! Back to my regular Friday morning routine. Responsive keyboard, fast internet and no-one trying to steal a look at my screen. So here goes. Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. Speaking at a special commemoration yesterday evening Archbishop Justin said: “The culture of alternative facts, of post-truth, of collusion needs to be challenged at every level and in every conversation and debate in this country if indeed we are to be a place of safety and healing for those fleeing tyranny and cruelty.” This Tuesday a long-standing friend over from New York for business took Jacqui and I out for a meal in a very smart restaurant in Manchester. (That’s my kind of friend). We love meeting with Jeff: a much-travelled raconteur, a good listener with a genuine concern for me and my family. Moreover Jeff is my only friend who is Jewish – and so often we talk shop. He tells it as it is. So I was quite shocked when he told me that the only time he himself has experienced antisemitism was here in Manchester some months ago, in a queue at the airport. It seems that just ahead of him was a passenger wearing a yarmulke, clearly what Jeff would call a religious Jew. As Jeff approached the counter, the man behind him said “I love holidays. Even the Jews are polite.” He did not realise that Jeff himself was Jewish. Maybe it was meant as light humour, a simple quip. But that is where it starts – and such language, as Justin said yesterday, needs to be challenged. We cannot let it pass. When in London do your best to visit the Imperial War Museum by Waterloo station and head for the Holocaust Exhibition which occupies two floors. I always find it profoundly moving. The most harrowing photos for me are those at the very beginning, around 1934. These show how Jewish children are singled out in their schools for regular humiliation. Nothing particularly dramatic but even the more frightening as seeds of hatred are being carefully sown to bear a horrifying harvest. Of course, Holocaust Memorial Day is not limited to the suffering of the Jewish people but includes all victims of genocide in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. And that means we need to be vigilant to any expression of racial hatred, of xenophobia, for we are living in a time of growing insecurities as we see the world around us changing fast. Figures due to be released next week are expected to show 2016 was the worst year in decades for antisemitism, with an average of 100 incidents a month across the UK reported to the charity Community Security Trust, which monitors such hate crime. It seems that the numbers for the first six months of 2016 were double that of three or four years ago and the effect on the Jewish community, in the words of the trust’s spokesman was “very upsetting.’ But its not just Jews. Last week Ann Linde, the Swedish minister for EU affairs and trade, said she was shocked by the uncertainty and xenophobia experienced by Swedes in the UK since the referendum. So one Swedish woman working in the City was told by a colleague that the country had voted to get people like her to “get out.” It may have been a simple banter but dangerous nevertheless. Here Christians have a particular role and an important responsibility for our society. For scripture time and time again directs us to welcome the alien and the foreigner, particularly in the book of Deuteronomy which I am reading at the moment. “And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19) For as Christians we have no need to fear: our security is in Christ. We need not feel threatened: the Good Shepherd is with us. Our value comes from being loved by God, not through demeaning others. For this is where God is taking us, to a renewed world, to a glorious future, where our distinctive identities are both cherished and brought together through the cross of Jesus. So John sees God's glorious future. “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9) So as Christians, as disciples of a Jewish carpenter, we do not let pass any comments, any quip which seek to demean or diminish other peoples or groups. It could be an interesting time today in the Oval Office.