From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Argentina: Hope for Genuine Religious Dialogue

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Thu, 09 Jan 2003 13:57:16 -0600

First Meeting of Christian and Jewish Students from Argentina and

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina/GENEVA, 9 January 2003 (LWI) - In the
garden, Jewish ritual songs could be heard. In the hall, Roman
Catholic and Protestant students, men and women, tried to find
youthful songs that are sung in their churches. It was the first
meeting bringing together Christian and Jewish students from
Argentina and Uruguay. Professors of theology of both religions
had also been invited to the gathering held in an ecumenical
center in southern Uruguay.

Their discussion made it clear that the Christian-Jewish dialogue
in both countries was only at an initial stage. This is what
Jeronimo Granados, a professor at the Buenos Aires Protestant
college and minister of the Evangelical Church of the River Plate
(IERP) also noted: "For 20 years now, I have been engaged in the
Christian-Jewish dialogue, but at times, I feel quite isolated."
There has been no in-depth debate on the relationship between
Christians and Jews in either of the two Latin American countries.
The presentations during the November 24-25 meeting were nearly
all about the European developments of this dialogue.

Yet much could have been said about Argentina in this respect. The
country hosts the largest Jewish community in Latin America with
250,000 members. But, according to Granados, there are good
reasons for the debate being very much eurocentric: "I is rather
difficult to talk about Argentina. Up to now there has not been a
genuine dialogue. So talking about past history would be an
opportunity to learn more about each other, to come closer to one
another, without necessarily making commitments."

None of the 25 Argentinean participants at the meeting currently
sees any open anti-Semitic feeling in their country. But it
happens, said Granados, that people are reviled because they are
Jewish. Somebody who has become very wealthy in a short time is
sometimes said to be certainly a Jew. Shlomo Sudicovich, a student
at the Rabbinical college of Buenos Aires, said in this respect:
"This is due to the behavior of both sides. We, the Jews, always
tend to stay among ourselves."

Nor have the churches got completely rid of anti-Semitism,
according to Juan Armin Ihle, an IERP minister in Uruguay's
capital Montevideo: "I notice a subtle kind of anti-Semitism among
the pastors. Many do not distinguish between Jews and the politics
of the State of Israel."

It was not until August 2002 that the Buenos Aires-headquartered
United Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELU) declared its "deep
affliction" about the anti-Jewish trends in its history. In the
statement addressed to the Jewish communities of Argentina and
Uruguay, the IELU stressed that in its view, anti-Semitism "is an
insult to the Gospel and a downright violation of our hope and

Felepe Yafe, dean of the Buenos Aires Rabbinical College, also
regards a part of the Argentinean society as being latently
anti-Semitic. "We feared that the economic crisis might revive
anti-Semitism, but fortunately nothing of the kind has happened."

During the 1976-1983 military dictatorship in particular, the
army's anti-Semitic attitude manifested itself openly. There were
more Jewish victims of the regime than the official figures
indicated. The exact numbers are still being investigated.

When Christian and Jewish students share their painful past
experiences, and when they approach their respectve religious
understanding, genuine dialogue becomes possible. This hope was
expressed by the Uruguay meeting participants in a closing
statement: "By renewing our awareness about our experiences and
our cultural and religious inheritance, we have discovered that we
have already walked a long way together and that there is still a
long way to go. We hope that, inspired by God's presence, we will
be able to find further paths towards unity and dialogue, so as to
proclaim a true message of peace, love and solidarity."

(By LWI correspondent Alexandra Jaenicke)

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 136 member churches in 76 countries representing over 61.7
million of the 65.4 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human
rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and
development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is LWF's information
service.Unless specifically noted, material preented does not
represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various
units. Where the dateline of an article contains the notation
(LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]

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