Anti-Semitism victims must feel reassured, says Archbishop of Canterbury

Victims of anti-Semitism must be made to “feel reassured” for true repentance to be shown, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Justin Welby added that the Chief Rabbi felt he had “no choice” but to intervene in the election period and call out anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

Justin Welby added that “true repentance” means “both acknowledging where things have gone wrong, but also changing course and action”.

The Archbishop of Canterbury said that for Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, speaking out about anti-Semitism was “one of the most painful decisions he’s ever had to take”.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Emma Barnett Show, Mr Welby said: “You’d have to ask him directly, but I obviously know him quite well and when you look at his article he talks about it being one of the most painful decisions he’s ever had to take, and I know that’s true.

“His instincts, like mine and others, are that during an election, you keep schtum, you say nothing. And a lot of people in the Jewish community were saying, ‘you’ve got to speak’, and he felt that there was no choice.”

Asked whether Mr Corbyn should apologise for the party’s issue with anti-Semitism, Mr Welby said “true repentance” must be shown, but warned that “it’s not a quick thing”.

“I think one of the things we’ve learned in the Church of England is that repentance, which is a sort-of technical churchy kind of word, means both acknowledging where things have gone wrong but also changing course and action.

“And all parties, and all parts of our society have this profound history of anti-Semitism going back hundreds and hundreds of years, of which the church has also been caught up scandalously, appallingly,” he said.

Mr Welby added that the issue of anti-Semitism is not confined to the Labour Party and “covers the whole of society”.

He said: “What we know is that the Jewish communities and Muslim communities have in recent years felt very under attack, very threatened, very vulnerable.

“And to deal with that, true repentance means a positive course of action that will make them feel reassured.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury was then questioned on why he tweeted in support of the Chief Rabbi’s decision to speak out.

In a statement on social media on Tuesday, Mr Welby said: “That the Chief Rabbi should be compelled to make such an unprecedented statement at this time ought to alert us to the deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews.

“Everyone in our country is entitled to feel safe and secure. They should be able to live in accordance with their beliefs and freely express their culture and faith.”

“Voicing words that commit a stand against anti-Semitism requires a corresponding effort in visible action.”

That the Chief Rabbi should be compelled to make such an unprecedented statement at this time ought to alert us to the deep sense of insecurity and fear felt by many British Jews:

— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) November 26, 2019

Questioned on his remarks, he said: “The statement we put out or I put out didn’t mention any political party or leader and it started by saying the fact that he (the Chief Rabbi) has felt it necessary to do this should make us stop and think.”

Mr Welby said he has “no doubt” that the Labour Party is “deeply anti-racist”.

He said: “I have no doubt that the Labour Party is deeply anti-racist, as are other parties, and I don’t know enough about their internal working to know if those positive steps have been taken.

“It’s a two-stage thing isn’t it, because as we’ve learned ourselves to our cost, and had to learn, just sorting it out internally is not always the answer.

“Where we’ve dealt with safeguarding, we have to recognise the need to act in a way that gives a different perception for survivors and victims of our safeguarding failures, and just doing the right thing isn’t enough, they (the victims) have got to know and feel it for themselves, that it’s changed, and we haven’t got there on that.

“It’s not a quick thing. Nobody’s going to do this overnight.”

Mr Welby also called on parties to be “super-careful” with the truth, adding that where there is a misuse of truth “we need to call it out”.

He said: “I think we just need to be super careful, super careful.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury added that the Conservative Party was “wrong” to rebrand its press office Twitter feed as “factcheckUK” during a televised election debate.

He said: “They quickly unrebranded it because that clearly shouldn’t have been done. It’s very simple. You shouldn’t seek to mislead people. But nor should you seek to debate in a way that makes other people our enemies.

“Other citizens of this country are not our enemies. They’re just people who have different views.

“Where something like that is done, where there is a misleading use of facts, deliberately, that is wrong. That is wrong. And people need to withdraw and get it right.”

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