I am very glad to have the opportunity to send my warmest greetings to members of the Jewish community to mark the festival of Rosh Hashanah and the forthcoming High Holy Days.
At the World Council of Churches we are currently observing the ‘Season of Creation’ which has recently become a feature of the liturgical year in many Christian traditions. This focuses our attention both on the dignity of the whole human family, each one of us created in the divine image, and also on the challenge which we share as stewards of God’s good creation. We surely all acknowledge that we fail to live up to this calling and that as a result it is overwhelmingly the poorest and most vulnerable in the world who suffer the consequences of the environmental crisis.
So it was a great encouragement that at a meeting in Paris in June delegations from WCC and the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations made a public commitment to developing a more collaborative Jewish-Christian approach to many of the world’s challenges, including that of environmental stewardship. Colleagues from IJCIC and WCC are currently engaged in follow-up conversation on practical steps to take this commitment forward. In this way we hope to develop the ‘shoulder to shoulder dialogue’ in which Jews and Christians address together the needs of the wider world.
Many other problems were on our minds as we met in Paris. Our theme was ‘the normalization of hatred’, and we thought especially of the targeting of vulnerable minorities in recent months, such as the Muslims of Christchurch, New Zealand, the Christians of Sri Lanka, and of course the Jewish community in Pittsburgh. We dedicated a whole session to discussing the alarming recent growth of antisemitism. Listening to our Jewish partners, not least those speaking of the situation in France, it was important for me to reaffirm the commitment of WCC and our member churches to condemn and work against all hostility and violence against Jews in our various home contexts.
Being honest and accountable in our relationships, we also acknowledge the significant differences between us, especially regarding the Middle East, and we presented our different positions to one another with clarity at Paris. We believe it is important for us to continue in the future to meet, to share our perspectives, and to discuss such issues.
The meeting in Paris was a great joy for me personally. It came in the last year of my tenure as General Secretary of WCC and marked the fruition of a long process of patient work on both sides to restore a public dialogue between WCC and IJCIC. Please be assured that this has been and will remain a priority for WCC.
I conclude with a prayer for God’s abundant blessing on you, our Jewish sisters and brothers, and on our joint efforts to build an enduring partnership of trust and cooperation for the sake of the whole human family.
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
World Council of Churches general secretary