On the eve of the English church leaders' pilgrimage to Bethlehem, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams has paid tribute to Shoah survivor and educator Elie Weiesel and has expressed distaste at the revisionist Holocaust Conference which took place last week in Teheran, Iran.
Dr Williams is keen that the visit, which will highlight the plight of Palestinians in the face of widely-condemned Israei government policies, should not be used to drive a wedge between Christians and Jews. Indeed he has on several occasions stressed points of consonance between the three Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - in the search for justice and peace.
The Archbishop, spiritual head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said: ‚ÄúLast week I was very honoured to attend a dinner in honour of Professor Elie Wiesel given by the Yad Vashem Foundation UK to mark the award to him of an honorary knighthood by the Queen. This was to honour in the most marked way, his services over so many years to Holocaust education.‚Äù
He continued: ‚ÄúHere is a Holocaust survivor whose life has been devoted to ensuring that the knowledge of that greatest of crimes will never be forgotten. In his very life as a survivor, as well as in his life‚Äôs work he stands as a reproach to all who are tempted to question the stark realities of the Nazi era or to doubt that they could recur.‚Äù
Added Dr Williams: ‚ÄúIt is shameful that in the same week, people whose lives have been wasted in denying the existence of the Holocaust, should have been drawn to an event which seeks under the guise of freedom of speech, to give spurious respectability to their pretensions.‚Äù
In January this year, on the occasion of the National Holocaust Memorial Day, the Archbishop declared: ‚ÄúIt is essential for each generation to be able to enter into the terrible events of the Holocaust at the level of knowledge and of feeling‚Ä¶. While it is true that human history has been stained by other genocides, including those of our own generation, the events of the Nazi era stand alone in their nature and causes‚Äù.
In relation to the upcoming pilgrimage, he said: ‚Äúwe shall be making our pilgrimage to the place of Christ‚Äôs birth, a place of hope. I am conscious that in the place of Christ‚Äôs crucifixion, there is the record of six million deaths at Yad Vashem. I shall hold both Bethlehem and Jerusalem in my prayers‚Äù.