Christian ministers lend support, issue letter against antisemitism

“Bias is a human condition, and history is rife with prejudice against groups and individuals because of their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or other characteristics. As a nation, we’ve made a lot of progress, but stereotyping and unequal treatment persist.”

--From the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Resource Guide.

In Ottawa we are blessed to have a group of Christian ministers who saw the problem of rising antisemitism and acted. Reverend Andrew Love of the Dominion-Chalmers United Church and the leadership of One Way Ministries, Mark Peterkins and Richard Long, have drafted a letter entitled “The Ottawa Letter of Concern.”

In the letter, they explicitly proclaim their support for the Jewish community of Ottawa and identify the terrorist organization of Hamas as the perpetrator of the horrific attacks of Oct. 7. The letter states:

“Ambiguity about antisemitism is complicity with antisemitism. No legitimate expression of ‘resistance’ can ever justify the barbarity of October 7. We are disturbed as protestors in our streets chant direct calls for the death of Jews and the extermination of Israel.”

The connection with One Way Ministries began in November 2023 with an email and a conversation. The leadership of One Way already knew that our community was suffering and wanted to act to bring greater awareness of the rise in antisemitism in Ottawa. 

"After listening to some of our Jewish friends in Ottawa, we were shocked to hear how much antisemitism they were experiencing personally.  We felt we had to stand with them,” says Peterkins, Executive Director of One Way Ministries.

The first Christian-Jewish Friendship Lunch was held in February 2024 at the Vineyard Ottawa Church. There, more than 80 Christian pastors and leaders learned about the history and modern manifestations of antisemitism, how the local community has been impacted, and what they can do to combat hate in their churches and communities.

The meeting was followed up with a second lunch at Kehillat Beth Israel Congregation attended by more than 100 pastors and Christian leaders, where they learned about Jewish ritual practice and were given a tour of the sanctuary by Cantor Jason Green. For most, they had never been inside a synagogue or seen a Torah and were touched by seeing the “Old Testament” in its original language and form. 

“I was honoured to host the Christian leaders at KBI. The friendship and understanding were evident, and they brought so much comfort at this troubling time,” said KBI’s Cantor Jason Green of the visit. “When we are feeling most alone it’s a relief to know that there are colleagues and friends who stand with us and are there to support us. I look forward to the next gathering when we will bring in more members of the Jewish community and build dialogue and allyship with our non-Jewish neighbours.”

At the May lunch Rev. Love presented the Ottawa Letter of Concern and solicited signatories. They then launched a website to invite other Christian leaders in Ottawa to sign on. To date there are over 100 signatures to the letter.

“Following the February luncheon, a core group of Ottawa clergy got together and realized that we had a shared motivation to do more to support the Jewish community in Ottawa. We wanted to share a message that you are not alone and that we strongly condemn the antisemitic actions on the streets of Ottawa and beyond. We also hoped that we could encourage other Christian leaders in other Canadian cities to take action. That was the genesis for the Ottawa Letter of Concern, said Rev. Love, adding, “Since issuing the letter, we have felt truly blessed to have been able to start new friendships with Jewish leaders in Ottawa. We hope this blossoms into more engagement, more advocacy, and a united stand against voices of hate in Ottawa.”

The Jewish community of Ottawa is continuing to have discussions with the group about how they can support us, and we regularly thank them for their outspoken support during this time. In the future we will be planning a gathering that will invite more members of the Jewish community to come and spend some time with the Christian leaders and learn from each other. 

Until then, the work continues, distributing the letter locally and now reaching out to other community leaders and bringing them into the fold.  Rev. Love recently spoke with some colleagues in Toronto and their Christian leadership has penned a similar letter. We are thrilled to see Ottawa serving as a model for other communities and for the country to know that the Christian leadership of Ottawa stands with the Jewish community.