This coming Monday at Beyachad, the Gauteng Council will have the honour of hosting Rabbi David Rosen, one of the foremost Jewish leaders in the field of interfaith dialogue. He will be speaking to the Gauteng Jewish community on the topic “From Foe to Friend-Catholic Jewish relations”. Rabbi Rosen has a long association with our community, dating back to the late 1970s, when he served as rabbi of the Green and Sea Point Congregation in Cape Town. He has since gained international acclaim for his work in the interfaith field, for which he has amongst other things become the recipient of a Papal Knighthood from the Vatican and an OBE from Queen Elizabeth II.
Rabbi Rosen is being brought out, as a guest of Religions for Peace, to participate in the fiftieth anniversary commemorations of Nostra Aetate, a landmark document which inter alia saw the Catholic Church decisively break with various antisemitic dogmas that had for so long been an intrinsic part of its theology. This included finally rejecting the notorious ‘Deicide’ charge, that is, that Jews are collectively and for all time guilty of killing Jesus. The declaration ushered in a new era of reconciliation and dialogue between the world’s Jewish and Catholic communities, in which Rabbi Rosen has and is playing a decisive part.
The importance of dialogue, bridge-building and understanding between the world’s various faith communities hardly needs emphasizing. Today, it is religion rather than ideology that would appear to be the number one threat to global peace, and specifically the emergence in recent decades of a violent, radically intolerant form of Islam. It is crucial to remember that adherents of these ideologies are not only hostile towards other religions and the secular liberalism of the West, but as much, if not more so, to fellow Muslims who do not adhere to their notions of how the Islamic faith should be interpreted and practised. As can be seen by the tragic events in, amongst other countries, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan, Muslims constitute the great majority of victims of Islamist violence.
Religious hatred, historically and in our own time, is characterised by the demonization (often literally) of the ‘other’, through which people’s essential humanity is denied to the point that slaughtering them is seen as a holy act. Invariably, such crude ways of thinking are underpinned by simple blind ignorance, which fanatical leaders as a matter of course seek to perpetuate. As is true of all conflict situations – our own country’s history is proof of that – the antidote lies in honest, respectful dialogue. Once people are talking to one another, it quickly becomes possible to clear up misconceptions and find common ground, of which there is so much in all of the world’s great religions.
This is the kind of message that Rabbi Rosen brings with him, and I hope many of you will join us on Monday evening to hear what he has to say. To confirm your attendance or for further information, contact Roseanne on 011 645 2521/ email@example.com.