23 July 2015
Jewish peer 'appalled' by failure to protect Christians
A Jewish peer helping to rescue persecuted Christians from the Middle East has criticised European governments for failing to take action over the matter.
Lord Weidenfeld, co-founder of the publishing house Weidenfeld and Nicolson, is spearheading an initiative to find homes for 10,000 displaced Christians in Syria and Iraq.
But speaking to The Tablet, he said he was “appalled” by how little some European states had done. “European governments who call themselves Christians, they have done nothing for their brothers and sisters,” he said. “I don’t know why they should wait for me to come out and help people whose eyes are being cut out.”
Aged 95 and still chairman of his publishing company, Lord Weidenfeld came to Britain from Austria in 1939, aged 18. He was taken in by a family of Plymouth Brethren Christians based in Parliament Hill, Highgate who helped in getting his parents out of Nazi-controlled Austria. “They treated me like one of their children and allowed me to continue to study,” he said. “So this [initiative] is a very personal thank you.”
He said that Poland has agreed to take in 1,000 people and that the Czech Republic is likely to follow suit with a substantial number. Some have already been found homes in Brazil.
The peer is working with the Christian Barnabas Fund and a Jewish network of philanthropists including Lord Rothschild and Martin Green, a retired businessman, which is funding the vast majority of the project. He has also enlisted the backing of Sir Charles Hoare, of the banking family.
Lord Weidenfeld also said that both Pope Francis and the Prince of Wales have been informed of the initiative and both are “very supportive.” The publisher was part of a group of intellectuals and writers from western and eastern Europe that met with Pope John Paul II each summer in Castel Gandolfo.
Lord Weidenfeld described John Paul II as a “great Pope” although he was more critical of Pope Pius XII, who has been accused of not doing enough to speak out against Nazi persecution of Jews.
“He thought if Bolshevism won the war, Christianity would come to an end. That allows for his various supposedly friendly gestures towards the Nazis,” Lord Weidenfeld said. “He thought ‘my God, I’m between the devil and the deep blue sea. Somehow the deep sea is better than the devil’.”
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