Ecumenical News International

Council Chair Concerned about Threat of War in the Near East

March 8, 2012

In reaction to the controversy surrounding the Iranian nuclear program, the chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) Nikolaus Schneider called upon concerned parties to do everything in their power to avoid military escalation in the region. "We of course view with great concern the growing threat of armed conflict due in part to Iranian policy," Schneider told the Evangelical Press Service "epd." But the attitude of the Israeli government was also problematical, he said.

Schneider, who has been awarded the Buber Rosenzweig Medal of the German Coordinating Council of Societies for Christian-Jewish Cooperation said the State of Israel was not exempt from criticism. The EKD Council chair and president ("praeses") of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland criticized the construction of settlements in violation of international law and the curtailment of civil rights in the Palestinian territories. Terrorism and violence on the part of Palestinians were also sharply criticized. "The critical limit has been reached when a state's fundamental right to exist is threatened or when, in the case of Israel, the criticism takes the form of anti-Semitism," the Protestant theologian argued.

The EKD Council chair called the relationship between Christianity and Judaism to be unshakable. Following the Nazi period, Protestant Christians redefined the Christian-Jewish relationship. Schneider recalled that this new theological departure, which included abandoning the mission to the Jews, was made possible by the Jewish side's willingness to dialogue. "Today knowledge about our permanent roots in Judaism is a stronger component of Protestant theology." Binding commonalities can be emphasized without ignoring our differences. Indeed, this basic mutual trust between Christians and Jews had to be nurtured and strengthened.

With this non-monetary distinction, the Societies for Christian-Jewish Cooperation wish to acknowledge Schneider's many years of effort to promote understanding between Jews and Christians. The praeses contributed substantially to the realization of the "pioneering 1980 synod declaration of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland on the 'Renewal of the Relationship between Christians and Jews.'" The award ceremony marks the launching of this year's "Week of Fellowship," which was organized for the first time 60 years ago and the theme of which in 2012 is "With responsibility for others."



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