Christianity to blame for ‘deeply entrenched anti-Semitism,’ says archbishop

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby © Ben Stansall
Archbishop Justin Welby has admitted Britain has a “deeply entrenched” anti-Semitism problem made worse over time by Christianity.

The Church of England’s highest cleric called Christianity’s treatment of Jews “shameful” and said society is still struggling with the consequences of its “history of denial and complicity.”

Welby called anti-Semitism a nationwide problem which is not limited to one political group.

In an essay for the Holocaust Educational Trust, the archbishop said: “Anti-Semitism is at the heart of racism. Yet, because it is so deeply entrenched in our thought and culture, it is often ignored and dismissed.”

He said Jews faced centuries of persecution in medieval England and that anti-Semitism had taken root within English culture by the time Jews were allowed to return in the 1650s.

It is a shameful truth that, through its theological teachings, the Church, which should have offered an antidote, compounded the spread of this virus.

The fact that anti-Semitism has infected the body of the Church is something of which we as Christians must be deeply repentant. We live with the consequences of our history of denial and complicity.”

Welby dismissed the idea anti-Semitism is unique to the Labour Party, which has been engulfed in a racism row among its rank and file.

Anti-Semitism is not a problem for one political party, one community or one sector of our society... Even today, in the 21st century, it is shocking that anti-Semitism still has traction; the virus continues to seek a host,” he said.

It latches onto a variety of different issues: financial inequality, wars and depressions, education, politics and government, grave international issues such as the rights of Israelis and Palestinians, and interfaith tensions.

It twists them to its own ends, with the perverted and absurd argument that a small group runs or plots against our society and manipulates international affairs.”