How Yad Vashem inspired my interfaith work

During Interfaith Week students from different faiths at the University of Nottingham gathered to hear about student experiences of ‘Faith in the Home’. This event provided a relaxed and welcoming space to explore student experiences growing up in a religious household and on-campus issues, as well as collecting for a local homelessness organisation. I formed part of a panel of Anglican, Baha’i, Catholic and Jewish students who were asked multiple questions about our experiences, especially within the context of interfaith.

Before becoming involved with the Council of Christians and Jews as a Student Leader, interfaith was never something I gave a lot of thought to.

However, after visiting Yad Vashem with the Holocaust Educational Trust in July 2015, I suddenly became aware of my increasing interest in it. As someone who was starting to get back in touch with my Christian faith, hearing in detail about one of the darkest, most evil periods in history as well as Christianity’s part in the history of anti-Semitism, was difficult.

Hearing time and time again, how Christians had influenced and perpetuated anti-Semitism was incredibly uncomfortable and saddening. Not because I didn’t believe that Christians acted in this way, but because I did.

During my time at Yad Vashem, my knowledge, bewilderment and sadness developed until I was left completely overwhelmed and desperate to do something.

I wasn’t sure at that point what that something would be, I just knew that something deep within me was urging me to act.

That was when I discovered interfaith and later CCJ (Council of Christians and Jews).

My time at Yad Vashem had triggered an interest in relationships between Christians and Jews, and I wanted to find out what was being done to encourage open dialogues, tolerance and fellowship.

This led me to discover the CCJ and I knew straight away that I wanted to be involved.

For me personally, my interest in interfaith with Jews stems from my knowledge and work with HET, but it did not stop there.

Judaism and the Jewish people are more than the Holocaust and their past and I wanted to discover this more deeply. And what is the best way to discover this? I would answer, interfaith.

Through interfaith we can learn the intricacies and beauty of the Jewish way of life today and go forward with better understanding and appreciation. My time at Yad Vashem instilled in me a firmer belief that Christians of today must reflect on the failures and atrocities committed in the past, in whatever form they took, to ensure that we learn from those acts and attitudes.

Interfaith is one of the best outlets for this. Only through knowledge and fellowship can we foster positive and permanent relationships that will serve as a foundation to support, protect and prevent.

What draws me so much to interfaith is its ability to give us the confidence and the means to speak up for what matters, to use knowledge to improve, not only ourselves, but wider religious contexts. It can be a driving force for justice, for example CCJ’s campaign #StillAnIssue is tackling anti-Semitism, by highlighting these issues to people who would otherwise not be aware of their scale and recurrence today.

Interfaith initiatives are a valuable way for people of faith to join together in speaking out against prejudice and hatred.

One of my favourite Bible quotes which I have on the wall in front of my desk, is Acts 18:9, which says: “Do not be afraid; Keep on speaking; Do not be silent”.

I believe that my role as CCJ Student Leader, has given me a forum to speak up and not be silent on the issues that matter and move me. My hope is that I can encourage more people to become engaged with interfaith.

At the University of Nottingham, I feel the best way to begin this process is through socialising and building genuine friendships.

Friendships provide a safe space to ask questions, to share, support and grow. It also makes interfaith personal and when we have personal experiences and connections, we have a stronger incentive to take that knowledge and support into the outside world and other contexts.

That is why the events I have organised, and plan to organise, as a CCJ Student Leader will focus on encouraging conversations and friendships, as well as education.

I think that sharing experiences and connecting on a personal level, away from the complexities of belief and doctrine, is an incredibly useful way of introducing interfaith.

An event like the one I organised for Interfaith Week, is still educational but focuses more on identifying with people, and normalising faith.

That is what I think interfaith thrives on: education and relationship.

Only through this can we support each other and protect each other from present and future hardship.

About the Author
Annabel Pattle is a Christian student in her third year studying Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham. She is a Student Leader with the Council of Christians and Jews, President of the AEGIS Students Society and a Regional Ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust.
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