Wendy Fidler MBE, Oxford Jewish Congregation

LET me introduce myself; I am a member of the Oxford Jewish Community and I cannot remember a time when I have not been interested in people of different faiths.

Now my commitment is to this work both academically and at grass roots level working within the different communities.

To this end I would like to tell you about the most recent project introduced by the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), of which I am a trustee.

This project asks all Jewish communities across the UK to pray and reflect about the awful situation of persecution, terror and lack of freedom to practise their own faith that so many of the Christian communities are experiencing in the Middle East.

The title of this project is ‘If Not Now, When?’.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, together with all the other presidents of CCJ who represent all the Christian and Jewish denominations, have given their wholehearted support to this initiative.

The scale of this problem is huge. In the 20th century 20 per cent of the population in the Middle East were Christian.

Now in the 21st century, only five per cent are left and it is estimated that 100 million Christians are at risk in the region.

There is no doubt that the scourge of hatred, intolerance and oppression remains the most urgent global challenge of our time.

In this context, recent reports suggest that Christians face persecution not only in the Middle East but in over a hundred countries worldwide, more than the adherents of any other religion in 2015.

Each one of us bears a responsibility to remember these people who are suffering simply because of their faith.

The Jewish community has experienced more than 2,000 years of persecution simply because they were Jewish, so now we have a special task to do; to pray and reflect for our Christian colleagues, and indeed for all those suffering from blind prejudice, intolerance and hate.

The 'If Not Now, When?' resource provides a wonderful vehicle for embarking on that process and I commend it to Jewish communities and all others across the UK and beyond.

I would like to include the words of Elie Weisel who was a Holocaust survivor and whose family all perished in the camps.

After the war, he became a famous writer who concerned himself with the situation of all groups who have suffered persecution and death simply because of their religion, race or national origin.

For me, his words are particularly appropriate and extremely poignant: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.

“Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

Please remember these people, as we Jews in communities throughout the UK continue to do.

Let us think about the words of the first verse from psalm 133, “How good and pleasant it is for brothers (and sisters) to dwell together.”