Academic and religious leaders from Christian and Jewish communities explored the impact of the holocaust on religious freedom, theology and Jewish-Christian relations at a symposium hosted by Andrews University on May 1 and 2. Themes of racism, religious persecution and human rights were discussed against the background of the genocide of Jews during the Second World War.
Auschwitz “should teach us to be proactive in defending human rights,” said presenter Dr. John Graz, director for public affairs and religious liberty for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. “What happened to the Jewish people can happen to other minorities.”
“As Christians we should be very sensitive to the process which leads a government to discriminate against and persecute a minority,” Graz said. “Being a Christian after Auschwitz will help me say ‘No more-no more political or religious persecution, no more discrimination on social, racial, religious bases.’”
Symposium convener and speaker Jacques Doukhan, director of the Institute of Jewish-Christian Studies, urged educators “to rethink their priorities and realize the importance and the relevance of courses and seminars dealing with the subject of the Holocaust.” Doukhan also called on Adventist theologians to transcend merely academic responses to the Holocaust, and to allow its lessons to impact their theology and religious thinking.
The presentations drew some intense interchanges between participants, says Gary Ross, assistant to the president of Andrews University. Ross believes that the symposium was an important part of the university’s emphasis on “facilitating the exchange of ideas on campus.”
“It’s also our intent to consciously involve the community and bring the public onto the campus,” says Ross, who adds that the symposium has generated a uniformly positive response from the more than 200 people who attended.
Other presenters at the symposium were writer Marvin R. Wilson, noted civil rights attorney Lee Boothby, author Rabbi Morely T. Feinstein and Professor Gershon Greenberg, Professor of Philosophy and Religion at American University in Washington, DC. The event was co-sponsored by the International Religious Liberty Association, the Institute of Jewish-Christian Studies and Andrews University, an Adventist tertiary institution located in Berrien Springs, Michigan.