From: Bo Sandahl; ICCJ President
A New Year's Greeting to all engaged in Jewish-Christian dialogue.
Leaving the year 2020 will be a relief to many! What the first year of the new decennium did offer us was something unexpected; still, something which shouldn’t totally surprised us. Viruses come and go. The Covid-19 is contagious and fatal. It very soon spread around the globe and became a pandemic in the full meaning of the word.
The pandemic has had a big impact on the ICCJ and our member organizations. The Executive Board met in Heppenheim in early February for our board meeting and a consultation on “the many meanings of mission,” but we have been able to meet only online since. The ICCJ yearly International conference and Annual General Meeting planned to be held in Bratislava, Slovakia, in late June, had to be postponed. Our reality has become much more virtual, something we share with everyone. Our 2021 conference is being planned as a digital experience.
With regard to Jewish - Christian dialogue, leaving 2020, we should ponder some questions: What can we learn? What can we carry further? What can we foster for the future? The first thing that comes to my mind is how connected we are. Physically, of course, how fast a virus can spread between different countries and people. But, more important, how we can connect through online facilities. We have learned a lot about these possibilities and I'm confident that we are just at the beginning of a small communications revolution. The many options for these media will develop quickly as well as our knowledge of how to use them.
Will this bring us closer? Will it help us in our mission? No doubt there are both challenges and pitfalls. But one thing is for sure, we really need to explore the constructive possibilities this new situation poses. The alternative is not a good one: losing contact, as well as not arranging online meetings and seminars, would be devastating. At the ICCJ homepage you can find a presentation of the ICCJ project “Promise, Land and Hope” now published by Paulist Press with the title “Enabling Dialogue About the Land” and a video seminar by our Theological committee about“Light and Darkness: Our Festivals and Our Times.”
2020 has been a year in which we have heard conspiracy theories and apocalyptical dystopias. Some have had an undertone of anti-Semitism, and the war on Christians, especially in parts of Africa and India, is still on its way. Jewish - Christian dialogue can contribute to the future by showing that dialogue is a peace- and knowledge -bringing activity. Yes, it actually is a reason for hope in a time when we so badly need it.
Thanks everyone for your engagement with dialogue! Thanks for all the good work! Thank you for all initiatives in offering alternative ways of meeting and working together!
On behalf of the ICCJ Executive Board, General Secretary Anette Adelmann and the staff at the Martin Buber House in Heppenheim I wish you all a Happy and Blessed New Year 2021!
Bo Sandahl, ICCJ President