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‘Yad Vashem speaks for life’

Christian leaders learn Holocaust lessons with moral clarity

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Posted on: 
23 Jul 2011
‘Yad Vashem speaks for life’

The Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, created in partnership with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, recently hosted a special Christian Leadership Conference in Jerusalem for training in Holocaust education and combating the resurgence of anti-Semitism.

Some 25 Christian leaders representing 11 different countries came for the 10-day event, which included an array of seminars at Yad Vashem as well as a tour of biblical and other key sites in Israel. The conference and tour began in late April to coincidence with Yom Hashoah – the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day observances in Israel. Besides traversing the Holy Land, the attendees heard from leading Holocaust educators and engaged with Holocaust survivors now living in Israel.

The actual conference, arranged by CFYV with the International School for Holocaust Studies, sought to take already accomplished Christian leaders and speakers and enhance their knowledge base on the Nazi genocide against the Jews, as well as their ability to address moral and historic issues related to the tragic legacy of Christian anti-Semitism.

Indeed, the pastors and other church leaders returned to their various home countries acknowledging that they had been inspired to spread what they had learned with clarity and passion.

“The conference was very effective and very well done. I reflect on it daily”, said American pastor John Henderson in retrospect. “Yad Vashem and ICEJ have fuelled the passion in my heart to continue to speak out for Israel and the Jewish people. They have also equipped me for the task. I am so ready.”

“Yad Vashem speaks for life – despite the tragic events it stands for”, insisted Johanna Manner from Finland. “Yad Vashem speaks of hope, of choices, of moral values, of the sanctity and value of life – life of people groups and of each individual.”

“The heart of each lecturer and staff member, the heart of Yad Vashem, inspired me,” she continued. “I was also impressed meeting the Holocaust survivors and hearing of their lives then and now.”

Jaakko Happonen, also from Finland, added that “one of the most important things I learned was how hard it would be for me to be an ignorant bystander if the Holocaust ever happened again. It is in now engrained in me to recognise anti-Semitism and to fight it wherever it pops up.”

“I have returned with a real desire to share my experiences with as many people as I can”, assured Steve Elms from Liverpool, England. “I want to really encourage Christians to understand what happened, particularly the contemporary relevance in light of the dangerous and misunderstood rise of Islam.”

“Being in Jerusalem was in itself an awesome experience, and there were so many highlights”, added Elms. “But I think Alan Rosen’s talk on literature from the Holocaust really inspired my understanding of the Jewish respect for the sanctity of life, and making the most of living it. This tour will remain with me for the rest of my life!”

Meanwhile Rev. Joseph Chin from Singapore, formerly pastor of the Full Gospel Assembly in Vancouver, Canada lauded the Yad Vashem Christian Leadership Seminar for “adding a realistic and valuable dimension to my pastoral ministry in refining my thoughts on the historical-theological problem of the Church-Synagogue schism that existed over the last two millennia.”

“Due to bad theology, what initially started as only ‘words against the Jews’ by certain Church fathers turned into ‘wars against the Jews’ and finally culminated in the horrific, watershed Holocaust in modern times”, Rev. Chin explained. “This was brought out clearly and impressed upon me deeply as each lecturer spoke, as I painfully paced through the exhibits, and interacted with the survivors.”

“This seminar has better equipped me with the requisite tools to ward off this cancer [of anti-Semitism] in my own small way”, stated Rev. Peter Hemeng from Ghana. “I will also train, teach and encourage others to do the same. With God on our side, it will never occur again. Sympathy, support and prayer for the Jewish people and the State of Israel will surely be part of our church’s agenda going forward.”

Participants also were impressed with how valuable, effective, and thorough the tour of Israel was in such a short period of time. “The tour made the Bible a reality to me”, enthused Rev. Hemeng, who was seeing Israel for the first time. “What I have been hearing, teaching, reading, and preaching about over the years suddenly became alive.”Dr. Susanna Kokkonen, who hosted the group as director of Christian Friends of Yad Vashem, said the entire group was “so grateful to share the experience with such unique, talented and wonderfully spiritual fellow travellers, who each brought something new to the table. For having such a diverse international group, it was clear their hearts were from the same place.”

“They clearly came to a greater understanding about the unique lessons of the Holocaust”, said Dr. Kokkonen. “They shared their thoughts and feelings with each other and us, the staff at Yad Vashem. It was evident that these people are going to take the lessons they learned back to their communities. We will be having these seminars each year because it is evident that this is the best way to reach communities all across the globe.”

“Never have I met such a sincere, dedicated and upright group of Christians and I know they will make a huge difference in their home countries”, added Dr. Ephraim Kaye, director of international seminars at Yad Vashem.

The Christian Desk at Yad Vashem is a crucial part of the ministry of the ICEJ.
For more information of the ICEJ's partnership Yad Vashem.


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