20 July 2002
Dear Friends in Christ,
Grace and peace from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Some time ago you received a letter from me, reporting on the experiences of our sisters and brothers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan. At that time I urged that solidarity with our Arab friends should not be expressed in the form of hatred for others.
In the light of recent events, including the murder of a Jewish man in Toronto, I feel it is necessary for me to send this pastoral letter and ask that it be circulated with some urgency among all our congregations.
The recent escalation of anti-Semitism in our own communities and around the world is of great concern to Christians. It is evident that those who hate Jews and Judaism are using the tragic conflict in the Middle East as fuel to ignite hostility toward Jews where there was none and to intensify it where it already existed.
Many Christian churches, including ours, have spoken up on behalf of the Palestinian people, words that have often been highly critical of the State of Israel. Our concern that the Palestinian people be treated fairly is undiminished, and we shall continue to monitor that conflict and advocate justice and fairness for all sides as the only basis of a lasting peace.
We are well aware, however, that these well-intended expressions of support for the Palestinian people can be and are being used to further an anti-Semitic agenda. And we are also aware that these Christian critiques of the State of Israel have been heard by many Jews as one more of the many voices hostile to the Jewish people.
We deeply regret that Christian words have brought comfort to anti-Semites and pain to our Jewish brothers and sisters.
To those who would misuse our expressions of support for Palestinians, we reiterate the words adopted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church In Canada at its 1995 convention:
Grieving the complicity of our own tradition within this history of hatred, we affirm our fervent wish to live our faith in Jesus Christ in love and full respect for the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism is an affront to the Gospel, a contradiction of its central teachings, and a violation of our hope and calling. We pledge this church to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry in our own circles and in the society around us.
We Lutherans who have publicly rejected the anti-Jewish diatribes by our own Martin Luther, cannot allow our statements to be twisted into weapons of hate against the Jewish people today.
Please share these words with the members of your congregation.
For the sake of Christ,
Raymond L. Schultz, National Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church In Canada
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