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Christians cannot be bystanders to anti-Semitism

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The Philos Project — an organization dedicated to promoting positive Christian engagement in the Middle East and that borrows its moniker from the Greek word for ‘friend’ — found its mission all the more relevant in the wake of the Oct. 27 deadly shooting at a Pittsburgh, Pa., synagogue that left 11 dead.

Robert Nicholson, the founder of the Philos Project, seeks to facilitate Christians’ rediscovery of the Jewish roots of their faith. As part of the annual Philos Leadership Institute, Nicholson leads dozens of young Christians, mostly from the United States, on a pilgrimage of sorts to Israel and Jordan. This writer participated in PLI 2018.

Nicholson’s hope is that through a spirit of encounter, future Christian leaders will deepen their faith in the originally Jewish belief that we are created in the image of God.

“That’s an idea that the Jewish people taught the world. At Philos, we think it’s so revolutionary that we’ve built an entire movement around it, doing our best to promote the vision of pluralism to both East and West,” Nicholson said.

The Tree of Life synagogue attack in Pittsburgh is ultimately a direct challenge to that vision and, in Nicholson’s opinion, an aggression against all of humanity. 

“The Pittsburgh massacre represents everything that is wrong with the world today: hatred, dehumanization, division,” Nicholson said. “But in targeting the Jewish people, the killer went even further. An attack against Jews is an attack on the moral foundations of our society, a society that was built on the Hebraic values that the Jewish people brought to the world.” 

Amanda Achtman, a 2017 Philos Leadership Institute participant from Canada, highlighted an encounter with a Holocaust survivor on her trip.

“I remember the moment at which I became responsible to speak up,” she said. “I remember every detail of the survivors’ heart-wrenching stories and how they entrusted us to share these stories with future generations.”

Achtman, who was raised in a Jewish-Catholic family, is encouraging Catholics to address anti-Semitism.

She wrote on Facebook the day after the synagogue attack:

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard a priest address anti-Semitism. Thankfully, at the Mass I attended today in Toronto, there was a petition for the Pittsburgh victims in the prayers of the faithful. But with those readings from Jeremiah, Psalms and the Letter to the Hebrews — and especially in the light of the massacre yesterday — it’s my sincere hope that priests will begin instructing the faithful about the evil and dehumanizing history, ideology and current threats of anti-Semitism as well as encourage prayer and work to combat anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

Luke Moon, assistant director of the Philos Project, also used social media to condemn the violence.

“Christian anti-Semitism was part of our past. It cannot be part of our present or our future,” Moon wrote on his Facebook page.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018