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Thought for the Week – 15th May 2022

Even a Genocidal Enemy has Humanity

Jesus, a Jew, told his followers to love their enemies. What happens when your feel your enemies are committing war crimes? Some challenging words from Peter Pomerantsev, a Ukrainian-born journalist, quoted in the Church Times, 29th April 2022, who writes from a Jewish perspective, drawing on collective memory of genocide  against Jews from before Jesus’s day to the Second World War.

“Many Ukrainians I speak to worry that the war will brutalise them, that they risk becoming so full of hate it will eat them up inside. There’s a passage [in the Talmud, a Jewish commentary on the Old Testament] describing how when the angels wanted to celebrate the drowning of the Egyptian army, God stopped them. How could they sing when His creations were dying? Even a genocidal enemy has some humanity. But if I’m honest, I celebrate every incinerated Russian tank. I tried to think about the soldiers inside them at the start of the war but I lost that moral battle by week two. At breakfast…. I suddenly find myself weeping over boiled eggs and coffee. That’s how you recognise Ukrainians these days, they’re the ones crying in public for no apparent reason. Like [President] Zelensky, I may be angry at God, but religion helps; the ever-returning catalogue of mass murder imprinted in Judaism puts this current evil into a context of pain and ultimate resilience”.

Rev David Poyner