Bishop of Birmingham affirms commitment of bishops to oppose antisemitism, adopt IHRA definition and its examples

On 13th September 2018 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Popat, “To ask Her Majesty’s Government what actions they are taking to reassure the Jewish community over the impact of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom.” The Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart, spoke:

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, as we have heard, there is a need for constant vigilance to ensure that antisemitism plays no part in the life of our country. To continue its determination in this aim, the College of Bishops of the Church of England, building on 75 years of friendship marked by the founding of the Council of Christians and Jews, has adopted and adhered to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, including all examples without qualification or exception. This is in the context of our conviction, which I trust will be affirmed today by Her Majesty’s Government, that anyone involved in political, spiritual or national life should reject all language and activity that leads to prejudice, stigma or hatred towards people on the grounds of their religion, culture, origins, identity or beliefs. This includes issues related to those we are discussing today, such as Islamophobia.

Continuous, intentional effort is required in achieving and maintaining these standards, recognising the failures of negative stereotyping in the past, which the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, mentioned in his remarks. A further report on the theology of Christian-Jewish relations is in preparation, led by the Bishop of Lichfield. Recent public conversation between the most reverend Primate ​the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi is evidence of mutual commitment to justice, safety and friendship. In practice, this means not talking about people but talking with them. As we have heard, it does not preclude constructive criticism of the policies of Israel, but demands appreciation of and participation in solving intractable issues together.

In my own context of Birmingham, with rabbis and imams of many different traditions, helped by some programmes supported by the Government—which, I hope, will continue—we are learning to live together across all faiths and none as good neighbours, disagreeing well and using the highest standards of language and attitude for the common good of all. I hope this year, and in years to come, we can say, “Happy and peaceful Rosh Hashanah”.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con) [extract]: …I agree very much with the importance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition. I am very proud that this country and this Government were the first in the world to adopt the definition in 2016. I also thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham and through him the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for their work and for the actions of the Church of England this week in adopting the definition, which sets out an important signal of where British faiths are and where the great mass of people in this country are.


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