Iran's President and the Holocaust
One of my fears for the future is that Bush might try one last piece of military adventurism aimed at Iran. If he does so, I believe his motives will be no better or more honest than than they were in Iran.
However, none of this means that Iran should not be subject to criticism. Its human rights record is abysmal, particularly in regards to the treatment of women and its policy of stoning. Now, it has an undesirable President in Mahmoud Ahmadineyad. Not for the first time has he joined the likes of David Irving in the sewer of Holocaust denial
I am critical of Israel which has much to answer for in the Middle East conflict. However, I have no empathy with the Holocaust denial movement. Whilst I was training at Wesley House in Cambridge, I took a short course on Judaism with the Cambridge Theological Federation which was led by Ed Kessler who is the Principal of the Centre of Jewish - Christian Relations. During that course, we travelled up to Nottinghamshire one day and visited Beth Shalom which is a memorial to the Holocaust set up by a Methodist. There we saw loads of primary sources ast to the reality and the horror of the Holocaust. It was deeply disturbing to a group of Christian ordinands to see that such a terrible thing had happened in the midst of Christendom. However, nothing prepared us for hearing a Holocaust survivor speak of her experiences. In silence we returned to Cambridge, our hearts and minds focused on the woman we had listened to and of the evil plot to destroy her and her people and even all memory of them.
The following year, I studied 'Christian and Jewish Responses to the Holocaust' as part of my B.A. studies. In that year I was again and again horrified at the appallingly real events that had happened. Again I had the opportunity to hear survivors tell their stories and to read some of the writings of those who had been murdered. (Read more on this in my Good Friday sermon which is the first sermon of mine to have been posted on 'Sermons from Bideford' which can be linked via 'My Sermons.').
By the end of the course, I was committed to a view that the atrocities of the holocaust in which 11 million people died ( over one half of them Jewish) should never be forgotten. I was also committed to working to ensure that Christians learn from the past for as the Jewish scholars Dabru Emet statement makesd clear, whilst the Holocaust was not a Christian event, it could not have happened without close on 2,000 years of anti Judaism on the part of Christians.
But now, Iran has a President whose views are so distorted by a parody of Islam and a hatred of Israel that he denies this appalling crime. In his denial, he treats a people as less than fully human and totally dishonours the dead. In so doing, he does a diservice to the reputation of his country and of his faith. The last half century has been one of difficult relations between Judaism and Islam. The Middle East conflict has been a major factor in this. Without doubt many Palestinians suffered as a result of the events of 1948 when they were in many cases driven from their homes. But, this is not a good reason for the peddling of anti Jewish sentiments such as the Russian forgery that was the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion' or for the Iranian President's remarks that frankly are devoid of humanity.
For much of History it has been different. The Prophet sought good relations with the Jewish communities he encountered after his migration to Medina although events soured the scene there. Islam held to the Quranic statement that there be no compulsion in religion. And in the main down through the ages, whilst Christians were forcibly baptising Jews and all too often killing them, the Muslim record although not perfect was generally much better. As Melanie Wright of the Centre for Jewish - Christian Relations puts it in her book 'Understanding Judaism';
"Yet for much of the medieval period Jews fared better in Muslim lands than in Chritian ones." (page 157)
The Iranian President may not survive in power for long. However, those of us who are committed to working for peace in the world, should not be silent at his outbursts. He has made no serious suggestion as to how to bring peace and justice to Israel/Palestine. On the contrary, his behaviour has been disgraceful as he peddles the lies of hatred and in effect throws an embrace around the killers of the Third Reich.