Rabbi Mirvis promises 'special initiative' from community to help refugees


Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has called on the Jewish community to act “positively” to alleviate the plight of refugees in Europe.

“Right now there is a crisis and if we don’t act in a humanitarian way, more people are going to die,” he warned.

The chief rabbi was speaking at a joint conference with the head of the English Catholic Church, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, following their audience with Pope Francis in Rome yesterday, where the refugee crisis was one of a number of issues discussed.

Rabbi Mirvis said that he had received “an outstanding response” from Jewish charity leaders following conversations today about how to react to the situation.

“We will see unfolding during the next week at least one special initiative to call for the members of our community to respond adequately through a financial drive to assist,” he said.

While money was important, it was “not the only way,” he said.

“I would love to see all communities… responding appropriately. While the politicians get on with their job, this is our problem."

Rabbi Mirvis said that the images of the body of three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed ashore on a Turkish beach "is a call for us.

“This morning I heard his father say the words ‘I hope the death of my son will change the world’. I think it will, it should, it’s up to us to respond positively to the message that image sends out to us. We have a responsibility to do it, a moral obligation.”

The two British faith leaders met the Pope ahead of next month’s 50th anniversary of the historic Nostra Aetate declaration which put Jewish-Christian relations on a new footing after centuries of anti-Jewish teachings by the Catholic Church.

Both Rabbi Mirvis and Cardinal Nichols said that their warm friendship embodied the spirit of the agreement.
Fifty years ago a chief rabbi and a cardinal would not have been seen travelling on such an occasion together, Cardinal Nichols said.

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