NEWS – Italian Rabbis Speak Up against Indifference

MilanBy Rossella Tercatin

Witnessing the drama of Christians and other minorities persecuted and killed in Iraq, Italian Rabbis have raised their voices against intolerance and indifference.

While new horrors committed by the militias of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria are reported on the news everyday, a number of op-eds have appeared on the main Italian papers, underlining how the situation must concern everyone.

“Intolerance is a childhood disease of many religions, especially monotheistic religions. Growing up, the disease can heal or become chronic, or can appear again as a dangerous recurrence” noted the Chief Rabbi of Rome Riccardo Di Segni on the daily La Stampa. The Rabbi underlined how “the recurrences of this disease have caused bloodshed in Europe for centuries” and how with the end of totalitarian regimes “we thought the problem was over” but it was not as September 11th and what is currently going on in vast regions in Africa and Iraq shows.”

“I wonder for which obscure reason medias have started to cover these issues only now, after tens of thousands of victims. Not long ago, when we demonstrated against the persecutions – in Rome we did it a couple of times, Jews and Christians together – few people seemed willing to listen. Maybe it is because we think those countries as far away and we unconsciously deem ourselves morally superior, as if these events were uncivilized deeds involving uncivilized people. But perhaps our incivility consists precisely in not understanding how much they do concern us, both spiritually and geographically.”

There was a time when the Middle East was also homeland of thriving Jewish Communities. In few decades, after the Second World War and the foundation of the state of Israel, centuries of integration and coexistence have been wiped out. Now other minorities risk to face the same destiny, and they must not be left alone against this threat, as Rabbi Giuseppe Laras, emeritus Chief Rabbi of Milan and president of the Rabbinical Court for the Northern and Central Italy, admonished on the daily Il Corriere della Sera.

“Our words and our actions for the Christians in the Middle East are late, guiltily late – underlined Rabbi Laras – It has been several years since in a region that goes from North Africa to Syria and Iraq, Christians and other minorities, among them the peaceful yazidis, are subjected to terror, violence and death, while Europe and the Western world stay silent. It does not matter if this attitude is caused by economic interests, by political strategies or by a sort of “politically correctness” both conformist and slothful, as superficial and blind as ideological and despotic. The result is that hundreds of thousands of lives have been sacrificed.”

“Peace cannot consist of a silent tolerance of abuses or in a less-than-firm opposition to whom despises life, dignity and freedom. On the contrary it is a precise religious duty to fight tyranny and oppression with determination, responsibility and courage” he added.

The same concepts were expressed by Rabbi Laras at the interreligious event organized in Milan at the Museo del Duomo, by the School of the Cathedral in collaboration with the Rabbinical Court for the Northern and Central Italy (in the picture). Among others, the event was attended by the archbishop Angelo Scola, the president of the House of Islamic Culture Mahmoud Asfa and the mayor of the city, Giuliano Pisapia.

A moving testimony was offered to the audience by Georges Jahola, priest of the diocese of Mosul, temporarily in Italy to complete his studies.

“Let’s start from here, from the city where we live side by side, let’s start from here to get to know each other, to talk, to understand: the tragedy of our brothers in Iraq invests us with a responsibility.”