(June 21, 2022 / JNS) B’nai Brith International expressed concern and outrage over the newly elected general secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Professor Dr. Jerry Pillay, who has a history of making anti-Jewish and anti-Israel comments.
Pillay, a Presbyterian and dean at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, will start his new position in 2023.
“If protecting Jews’ basic equality, dignity and security is inseparable from true ecumenism and the pursuit of human rights, Rev. Pillay’s rise risks devastating harm to the cause of social justice,” David Michaels, B’nai B’rith’s director of United Nations and Intercommunal Affairs, wrote last week in a Medium blog post.
Pillay’s appointment, wrote Michaels, is “not shocking, but astounding and alarming nonetheless.”
“In particular, it demonstrates a deepening threat to decades of progress in Christian-Jewish relations—vital not only to that distinct, historic bond but as a model for interreligious reconciliation more generally,” he continued in his piece, which was also circulated in an official B’nai Brith press release about Pillay’s appointment.
Michaels pointed out that in 2016, Pillay compared Israel and the alleged “exclusionary and violent character of the Israeli Zionist project” to South Africa’s racial apartheid.
He also expressed support for the BDS movement against Israel, writing that “Jewish leadership” helped “influence European nationalism and colonization” with “a common desire to establishing the State of Israel … on the land of Palestine.”
Additionally, the professor has accused Israel of wrongfully acting against “the indigenous people of the land” under “the guise of ‘national security’ or ‘national interest.’ ” He also asked Christians to “resist the empirical ambition of Israeli Jews.”
Michaels summed up the appointment, saying: “Now, the WCC has elevated Rev. Pillay, who is on record with especially strident, simplistic ideological extremism on Jews and the Jewish state. … This is sanctimonious and, yes, sinful. It is upon all people of principle–Christians, Muslims and others—to assert that genuine and meaningful peacemaking cannot be founded upon antipathy to the identity, rights and complex lived circumstances of Israelis and of Jews.”
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