Churches strongly condemn anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial
A major American ecumenical organization which has sometimes been accused of being too pro-Palestinian and ignoring Jewish concerns has issued a tough criticism of anti-Semitism in the Arab world and elsewhere.
Using unusually strong language, the National Council of Churches USA has condemned Iranian President recent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for the obliteration of Israel and his claim that the Holocaust was 'a myth.'
'It is no accident that among the first protests of the Iranian president's statement were those of German leaders, whose parents were witnesses of the horrible reality of the Holocaust,' said the Rev Dr Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the NCC.
'Anti-Semitism's most vociferous manifestation is the ëBig Lie' now coming from Tehran,' he added.
Dr Edgar also reaffirmed the NCC's support for the security of the State of Israel, alongside a viable Palestinian State.
Ahmadinejad's remarks were made during a convention entitled, 'A World Without Zionists.' He said the state of Israel should be wiped off the map. He went on to say that Western leaders 'have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets.'
Ahmadinejad's pronouncements were immediately condemned by the Vatican, European church leaders and world governments, including China.
Dr Antonios Kireopoulos, Associate General Secretary of the NCC for International Affairs and Peace, recalled that an earlier president of Iran encouraged a 'dialogue among civilizations.'
'By spewing forth hatred for Israel, Judaism and the Jewish people,' Kireopoulos said, 'President Ahmadinejad is assuring that this dialogue will go on without Iran. How unfortunate this is for the Iranian people, many of whom do not share their president's views.'
The National Council of Churches USA is composed of 35 Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and peace communions representing 45 million Christians in 100,000 local congregations in the United States.
The full text of the NCC statement reads as follows:
The National Council of Churches USA condemns the comments of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for the obliteration or relocation of the State of Israel.
The State of Israel has embodied the hopes and dreams of Jews worldwide for decades, especially since the Holocaust that occurred during World War II. President Ahmadinejad's invective that the Holocaust never happened is a sobering reminder of the corrosive power of ignorance, desperation, and hatred.
It is no accident that among the first protests of the Iranian president's statement were those of German leaders, whose parents were witnesses of the horrible reality of the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism's most vociferous manifestation is the 'Big Lie' now coming from Tehran.
In opposition to such incomprehensible hatred, all people of faith and good will must stand firm in their rejection of Mr. Ahmadinejad's views. We at the National Council of Churches USA deplore these views.
In the face of Mr. Ahmadinejad's call for the obliteration of Israel, the National Council of Churches USA reaffirms its support for the security of the State of Israel, alongside a viable Palestinian State. We also reaffirm our respect for Judaism and our friendship with the Jewish people.
Iran is a complex country, rich in history, much of its recent history marred by difficult relations with the international community. Most recently these difficulties are over nuclear issues. The Iranian president's comments only serve to threaten Iran itself with further isolation from the world.
Just a few years ago the former president of Iran encouraged the 'Dialogue Among Civilizations.' By spewing forth hatred for Israel, Judaism and the Jewish people, President Ahmadinejad is ensuring that this dialogue will go on without Iran. How unfortunate this is for the Iranian people, most of whom do not share their president's views.