On Monday 23rd March one of our partners, the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), invited members to a lunch seminar on anti-Semitism. The event received such interest that the location had to be changed in order to accommodate everyone; clearly the topic was playing on the mind of a great many individuals.
A blog by Tim Burton-Jones
At the event itself, speakers Danny Stone, Director of the PCAA (Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism) and Mark Gardner, Director of Communications at CST (Community Security Trust) offered their professional thoughts on how anti-Semitism is manifesting itself in Britain and how this might be tackled. Mark was the first speaker and set the tone by noting that our context should not be forgotten; British society offers no barriers to being whatever kind of Jew you want to be.
However, this seminar brought to light that there is a rising anti-Semitism present in Britain. Both Mark and Danny talked of a rise in anti-Semitism, that, according to research, is getting worse. The saddening tale these gentlemen told outlined that members of the Jewish community feel afraid, isolated, and alone.
Recent events in Paris and the Middle East have also meant that the Muslim community has begun to feel threatened. Islamophobia is on the rise, just like anti-Semitism, and has had terrible ramifications for the Muslim community in Britain. Inter-faith organisations in Britain have noted their concerns surrounding increasing Islamophobia and anti-Semitism, thus suggesting that the problems facing these communities is real and serious.
This CCJ lunch seminar, however, also provided hope – an opportunity to stand up to the wave of racism, xenophobia, and mistrust that is rearing its head in British society. Mark Gardner made a point of stating that there is much more support for the Jewish community in tackling anti-Semitism than there was in 2000, when anti-Semitism began to increase notably. Mark Gardner also called on individuals to be increasingly careful with their language surrounding the topic of anti-Semitism; so fraught as this issue is, we all have a responsibility to speak carefully about the topic.
In the same sense that we have to be careful with our language, so too do we need to be careful with what we say on Social Media. A recurring theme of this seminar was that Social Media presents an unprecedented new opportunity for anti-Semitism to be present and consumed. In the light of this knowledge, we would like to invite all those present on Social Media to join us in changing the narrative of religion online; we hope that we can make a real difference and show that there is no corner of Social Media where anti-Semitism or Islamophobia is acceptable.
Danny Stone also used this seminar as an opportunity to highlight the importance of inter-faith groups. Indeed, the Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into anti-Semitism, with whom Danny is associated, recommended that the government look to support intensified inter-faith activity.
Working at the heart of the inter-faith community action in some of England’s most diverse communities, we have seen that creating personal association through inter-faith efforts is immensely powerful. Such work can and will be crucial to counter the creeping wave of mistrust. Mark Gardner spoke at this event of the need to improve Jewish-Muslim relations through inter-faith effort; what he hinted at was the need to humanise each other, to build real relationships with real people. To humanise your neighbour is at the heart of inter-faith work, to learn that an individual of another faith is as intricate, unique, and potentially vulnerable as you are is to eradicate mistrust and fear from our communities.
We are proud to have been working with faiths forums such as the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), and also with individuals in communities across England to create these new relationships and friendships. Our small grants fund has also supported work that is gathering Jews and Muslims together, as well as those of many other faiths and none. We hope that through the success of our work, and of course through the hard work of many others, that there will hopefully be no more need for seminars on anti-Semitism. We have seen that there is fantastic potential in England for friendships across all manner of communities; we hope that we can continue to contribute toward bringing an end to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia
Author: Mr Tim Burton-Jones
Date: 24 March 2015
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