A few days ago, Rabbi Arthur Schneier -the Vienna-born Holocaust survivor, who has been leaving and operating for many years in New York -gave the keynote address to the Austrian Parliament on the 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht, the terrible “Night of Broken Glass” when the shards of broken glass littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed.
It is also referred to as Reichs pogrom and November pogrome, two terms that always use the word “pogrom” (meaning “devastation” or “riot” in Russian) to indicate the attack of small well-manipulated groups against Jews and their property.
Many pogroms were carried out in Russia, a country of ancient and profound anti-Semitism.
What are its roots? The traditional anti-Semitism of the Orthodox Church, as well as the easy manipulation of the apparata, and the obsession with identity, spurred on by the Tsarist regime.
The Nazis, in particular, imitated this terrible political practice, as early as the Kristallnacht of November 1938, to actually start the Jews’ physical elimination until the “Final Solution”, which began in 1940-1941.
During that night over 1,400 synagogues were destroyed and 1,500 people were killed in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
At that time, as many as 30,000 Jews were deported to the concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.
Before the Kristallnacht, in 1933 there had been a call – or, indeed, an obligation -for a boycott of Jewish shops, businesses and professionals and later, in 1935, the Nuremberg Laws were promulgated.
Rabbi Schneier thought that, after the Holocaust, there would be no resurgence of anti-Semitism – a virus that has characterized modern history from late antiquity until today.
As a Kantian rationalist, Rabbi Schneier thought that – after the evidence of facts – there would be no persecution against Jews in the bright enlightened future of the twentieth century.
Instead monsters remain alive, after visible history putting them temporarily to rest.
But, as Rabbi Schneier said, now – in 2018 – the cancer of anti-Semitism is back and has metastasized in Europe and in the United States.
Ii should be recalled that anti-Semitism has always been present in North America.
Suffice it to recall Leo Frank’s affair of 1915. That American Jewish citizen was at first sentenced to death, but later his sentence was commuted from capital punishment to life imprisonment. Two years later, in response to the commutation of his sentence, he was taken from prison by a band of vigilantes, lynched by an angry mob and hanged from a tree. Today the consensus of researchers on the subject holds that Frank was wrongly convicted.
In 1958, even after the Shoah and the Nazi atrocities against the Jews becoming publicly known, the oldest synagogue in Atlanta was blown up and damaged extensively by a dynamite-fuelled explosion.
Myths and preconceived ideas, especially those based on hatred, do not need confirmation or denial. They exist and that is just the way it is.
Two years later, there was also the shooting attack by a “white supremacist” against a synagogue in St. Louis, with the killing of some Jews leaving that place of worship.
Alan Berg, an anti-racist intellectual, was killed in 1984, because in some of his radio talk shows he had defended black people and Jews.
There is no rational argument that can defeat anti-Semitism, racism, ethnic or even personal hatred.
Over seven major cases of violent anti-Semitism were reported in in the USA between 1990 and 2010, but there were countless actions on a smaller scale.
Anti-Semitism is still alive and is even increasing in terms of quantity and virulence. Just think of the attack against the Pittsburgh synagogue last October.
As Rabbi Schneier maintains, certainly the periods of social, cultural and economic turbulence are always fatal for the Jews – as the whole Western history demonstrates. Hence, unfortunately, with the crisis of Europe and the different, but concurrent crisis of the USA, the increase in anti-Semitism is predictable.
Shortly after the end of the Holocaust, Hanna Arendt rejected the theory of anti-Semitism as the development of the Jewish “scapegoat” theory and she often elaborated on the Rathenau case. Rathenau was the great Jewish industrialist and diplomat, who was Foreign Minister in Germany’s Weimar Republic and was murdered by right-wing extremists.
Elias Canetti reminded us that the idea for his extraordinary “Crowds and Power” sprang to his mind while seeing the many Social-Democratic workers following Rathenau’s coffin during the mourning service.
What is the essence of Arendt’s thesis on the Foreign Minister of Germany’s Weimar Republic?
The essence is that – by traditional position and role – the Jews were the “avant-garde of modernity” – hence all those who hate the values of Modernity are, ipso facto, anti-Semitic.
It is partly true, but Arendt forgets to say that anti-Semitism is widespread even in ancient societies (or in archaic societies, such as the Tsarist Russia of pogroms) and that many critics of the eighteenth-century revolutions are far from being anti-Semitic.
As noted by both Leo Strauss and the Marxist philosopher Lukacs, the modern world is also the symbolic and social organization that has been most opposed during its development, which has probably not ended yet.
The West of technology and of the calculating mind is not yet over, but its death depends on its excess of current and probably future anti-Semitism, which is incredible after the Shoah.
That is an excess of memory of its archaic and anti-modern past, even though modernity itself was somehow anti-Semitic.
Here Rabbi Schneieris very clear: the future of Europe is directly linked to the end of anti-Semitism and of today’s particular hatred against the Jews, i.e. that of anti-Zionism.
The future of Europe, but not only of the European Jews or of the complex world of North American Judaism.
We can certainly criticize Israel and its government – as we can disagree with the government of Turkey or Finland – but it is certainly nothing new that the polemic against the Jewish State is linked more to the adjective “Jewish” than to the noun “State”.
In the crowds’ minds, the history of Israel is now linked to the assumption – completely ungrounded – that it took away from the Palestinians the lands that originally belonged to them.
Zionism was linked – quite rationally – to the reaction of the French people to the Dreyfus trial that divided French society between those who supported Dreyfus, the so-called “Dreyfusards”, and those who condemned him, namely the “anti-Dreyfusards”. That year also marked the beginning of the unfortunate caste of intellectuals, that is fortunately irrelevant today.
In Theodor Herzl’s mind, the end of the rational and civil relationship between Europe and the Jewish world was evident.
Everything could collapse in an instant for European Judaism. The combined forces of the reaction to 1789 and of the worst 1789 had come together.
Living without history and in the here and now – like the animals described by Nietzsche in his second essay of the Untimely Meditations- is currently the form and the way in which the West thinks of itself. The history of our civilization seems to have finished and, hence, it is no longer necessary to know history, which is the basis of endless manipulations that today still float in the crowds’ minds. This is the worst forgetfulness and neglect of ourselves.
Furthermore, Rabbi Schneier focuses his attention on a fact that few people – who are not tunnel-visioned and narrow-minded as a result of apolitically correct approach or mere interest in the number of votes gained in elections – currently consider: immigration, especially from the Middle East or Africa, where there is a strong presence of Islam, will certainly increase the insecurity of European Jews and, in many respects, of all EU citizens.
In the European and American liberal culture, integration implies acceptance of the other and the kind request that the other adapts to our laws, regulations, customs, habits and practices.
However, there are not only explicit and written rules, at least for us who are the heirs of Roman law.
Hence the other needs to accept the substratum of our civilization, which is not only the trite, idle, frivolous and enlightened “tolerance” – the mechanism in which, as Adorno and Horkheimer maintained, everything is false.
Something more profound is here needed, which can never be written and regulated.
Politics is a metaphysics where the unspeakable is what matters and shapes all the rest.
Obviously this also applies to the citizens of the host countries, who must understand the alterity of the other, in the profound meaning of this concept, and hence respect him / her in his / her becoming other – just to use philosophical jargon.
Hence, although a share of immigrants is – to some extents – inevitable and, however, this has already materialized, we should recall that anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are not the enemies of Jews alone, but of our civilization as a whole.
This held true also for Nazism: it was in fact a political theory – but we should rather say a mere practice – linked to caste ideas typical of Asia where, indeed, the Third Reich also found military, economic and ideological support.
From Tibet to Indian Hinduism, from the Islamic sects of Central Asia to the peripheral Russian cultures of anti-Semitism, such as the Cossacks, while developing the aforementioned myths, Nazism aimed at the annihilation of Europe and hence at its “Asianization”.
Hence Nazi anti-Semitism as a struggle against Europe and its millennia-old civilizations, not less ancient than Asia’s.
Also the economy should be considered: as demonstrated by the most recent historians studying the Third Reich, the Nazi leaders thought to solve their economic and financial crisis with the “Jewish gold”.
Still today, whoever fights against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism is like one of the 300 Spartans holding the line in Thermopylae, who rescued the unique Greek knowledge and wisdom from a great Asian Empire that would have equated the maritime civilization of the Mediterranean to the steppes of the Persian Empire, without any culture other than the exaltation of the God-Emperor – or the sad repetition of the “ancients”.
An imperial wisdom that was also typical of the Roman Empire, but with the plurality of gods that already foreshadowed the Weberian “polytheism of values”.
Certainly, as Rabbi Schneier maintained, European leaders are very careful about the resurgence of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, but the issue does not lie in leaders, but rather in crowds, who seem to be ever more seduced by hatred, which is more complex than love but – like the devil -is a very powerful seducer.
But what is really anti-Semitism today?
A mass phenomenon, of course. And this is worrying because preconceived ideas are harder to eradicate than rational beliefs.
In the United States currently the Jews account for 5.5%.
Needless to say, it is not a race, but a set of different ethnic groups, united by the same creed.
Furthermore, between 11% and 20% of North American Jews are “coloured people” – hence not only blacks.
The Jews, however, live in 70% of current nations, ranging from the Jewish communities of Kaifeng in China to the Indian Jews of various Middle East origins, up to the Jewish majority areas in various parts of Latin America.
Nor should we accept the anti-Semitic myth whereby Jews are the “rich” who dominate the world.
According to the most reliable statistics, currently over 50% of the richest people in the world are of Christian faith, while there is a higher number of rich Hindus and Muslims than Jews.
The 2015 data shows that out of the 13.1 million people defined as “rich” globally, 56.2% are Christians, 6.5% Muslims, 3.9% Hindus and 1.7% Jews.
Certainly pathological thinking – a real mental illness, which currently defines anti-Semitism as a “conspiracy theory” – could maintain that this data is “rigged”.
This is not true. Indeed, it is real data taken from the tax returns of the countries recording significant GDP rates in the world.
In the United States, however, Jews are the ethnic-religious group that earns higher wages than any other similar group.
And there are still many poor people – poor like the Jews who arrived in New York two or three generations ago.
Currently 45% of New York’s Jewish children live just below the poverty line, while in the United States the poor Jews account for 26.4% as against an absolute average of 30.8%.
Between 1991 and 2011 the number of poor Jews in the United States increased by 22%.
Hence, as we already knew, the myth of the rich Jews who secretly organize economic crises or the spoliation and dispossession of the goyim peoples is completely unfounded.
But where did anti-Semitism historically originate? Probably in Europe and, above all, in the area of popular Christianity.
There is no difference here between Protestant and Catholic anti-Jewish hatred.
In his treatise On the Jews and Their Lies Luther used terminology and arguments that seemed to be copied from one of Goebbels’ leaflets.
Probably everything began formally with the Spanish laws on limpieza de sangre(blood purity) in the seventieth century and beyond, also after the great pogrom of the Reconquista, which occurred at the same time as the discovery of America.
At that time the Jews escaped – along with the Muslims – from the “purified” Spain of Isabella of Castile heading to the East, especially to the Ottoman Empire.
The sultan of the time wrote an ironic letter to the Spanish Catholic Kings: “I thank you for bringing me here all these doctors, merchants, scholars and mathematicians, whom I needed”.
Furthermore, in addition to the specific Catholic anti-Semitism – from which the Pope, St. Paul VI, but above all another Pope, St. John Paul II, definitively freed us – there was a secularist anti-Semitism linked to the scientist, positivist and rationalist ideologies developed as from the French Revolution of 1789.
A revolution which soon led to a resurgence of irrationalist and antiscientific attitudes: just think of Gracchus Babeuf’s Arcadian refusal of technology and factory work and his “Conspiracy of the Equals” or o fRobespierrism, when Lavoisier, the founder of modern chemistry, was guillotined by the revolutionaries under the slogan: “The Republic has no need of scientists or chemists; the course of justice cannot be delayed!”
Here other myths – apparently more “rational” – are already at work.
Darwinian racism, eugenics, the American anti-Communism – where Communism is basically the practice of fraternal help – as well as phrenology or physical anthropology.
This was the “scientific” basis of Hitler’s anti-Semitism and, from the beginning, the “Führer” was a loyal subscriber to the publications of New York’s “Observatory on Race and Eugenics”, which also set the yearly quotas of immigrants accepted by the US government.
Certainly confining the Jews to ghettos is also an excellent practice to eliminate dangerous competitors in trade, business or professions.
This is just what happened in Italy after the racial laws of 1938.
When the West thrived, Jews’ freedom was revived. Just think of the Florentine Republic of the Medici, as well as the Renaissance, the Italian Risorgimento, in which many Jews participated, and finally the German unification.
It should also be noted that, before the Western colonization, the Jews of the Middle East lived without particular restrictions or threats.
However, the number of the sporadic anti-Jewish actions were more or less the same as in Europe.
It is therefore appropriate to say that it was precisely the European anti-Semitism, imported into the French or British colonies, to stimulate the latent and silent anti-Semitism of the local population.
Currently, throughout the Middle East, the avowed anti-Semitism account for 98% on average.
A major cultural and political problem.
In fact, if a powerful Islamic militant group like Hamas, that is currently considered “terrorist” by both the EU and the USA – a group which is also an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood -states in its founding Charter it believes in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, this means that there is a problem of communication between the worst Europe and the most fanatical Middle East, which concerns both us and the Islamists of the Gaza Strip.
The “Protocols” are, in fact, a key example of the new and old anti-Semitism.
From 1880 to 1921, the anti-Semitic pressure in Russia was one of the major mechanisms that favoured the Jewish migration to the United States.
Moreover, the early twentieth century was a phase of extreme weakness for the Russian tsarist system, that the anti-Semitic myth greatly contributed to blocking and stabilizing, until the German operation that favoured the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk and hence Germany’s initial support for Bolshevik Russia.
On the one hand, the tsarist regime accused the Jews of plotting against the Russian Empire, on the other, the Jews were accused not only of the severe economic crisis, but also of the anti-tsarist propaganda, both the revolutionary and the bourgeois and pro-Western one.
Hence the anti-Semitic and the anti-Zionist propaganda are closely interwoven. They develop the same traditional style features and turn them into new slogans. They create the same mechanism of fallacious identity inside and of exclusion outside for Jews and Zionists, but today they are targeted above all against the policies of the State of Israel that we must defend.
Wither India’s secularism?
Florets International School in Kanpur’s Gandhinagar area is owned by Hindu owners. It is viewed as a paragon of quality education and interfaith harmony. According to the school’s principal Ankita Yadav, the school has a long established tradition of beginning its morning session by reciting prayers of four religious faiths (Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian) since the school opened in 2003. After closure due to COVID19, the interfaith prayers were recited to the morning assembly.
No-one ever objected to the practice. But some extremist Hindu outfits (Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and BJP’s leaders got inkling of the practice. On August 2, they forced a few parents to register a First Information Report against the school’s administration.
The FIR inter alia accused school’s managing director, Sumeet Makhija of ‘sowing the seeds of conversion’ and indulging in “shiksha jihad” (jihad teaching). He has been booked under Section 295A (outraging religious feelings and infringing Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021). The police hastily sealed the school. The complainants said that it was never their intention to get the school closed down. They have no intention to move their wards to any other school.
The façade of secularism
The Preamble to the Indian Constitution turned India into a secular state through the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976. The underlying objective was to provide for the unity of the people of India, professing numerous faiths. The state was bound to protect all religions equally and did not itself uphold any religion as the state religion. The secular objective of the state was specifically expressed by inserting the word ‘secular’ in the Preamble .Besides, the liberty of ‘belief, faith and worship’ promised in the Preamble was censured by incorporating the fundamental rights of all citizens relating to ‘freedom of religion’ in Articles. 25-29. These articles guarantee to each individual freedom to profess, practice and propagate religion, assure strict impartiality on the part of the state and its institutions towards all religions.
Religious persecution caricatures India’s constitution
Not only Muslims but also the other minorities have a miserable plight. Article 25-A of India’s Constitution provides for religious freedom. Yet, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom called for putting it on religious freedom blacklist. The report noticed: ‘In 2019, religious freedom conditions in India experienced a drastic turn downward, with religious minorities under increasing assault’. Not only Muslims but also Christians, Dalit (downtrodden) and other minorities are persecuted communities.
US Senators’ letters to Secretary of State
Fourteen U.S. Senators sent a letter to Secretary of State reminding him of the recommendation by US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to designate India a country of particular concern. The Senators went on to demand that “targeted sanctions” be imposed against Indian agencies and officials responsible for escalating religious intolerance and violence.
According to USCIRF, violations of the religious freedom rights of minorities have reached a point where India should be considered amongst the world’s worst violators. The Senators when on to request the Secretary of State to provide Congress with reasoning as to why the USCIRF recommendations are not being followed and why India is not designated “a country of particular concern”
Manifestation of persecution
A Christian preacher was burnt alive right in front of his two minor kids in Orissa by a serial killer Dara Singh. Several Indian states have passed anti-conversion laws. They are aimed at restricting the right to propagate religion, which is guaranteed by Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.
India claims to be a secular country but unfortunately, the country’s legislative history, relating to the issue of conversion underscores the reality that the government always harbored a grudge against conversion. Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have passed Freedom of Religion Acts. A common feature of these anti-conversion laws is that they made so-called ‘forced conversion’ a cognizable offence under sections 295 A and 298 of the Indian Penal Code. Several Indian states have passed anti-conversion laws.
Cognisability of the offence licensed police to harass missionaries and converts under the influence of Hindu fanatics or government functionaries. Some Indian courts intervened to stop the persecution of converts or Christian preachers. For instance, Chief Justice A.N. Ray in Reverend Stanislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1977 SC 908), and Yulitha v. State of Orissa and others, ruled that propagation is different from conversion. Ray observed adoption of a new religion is freedom of conscience, while conversion would impinge on ‘freedom of choice’ granted to all citizens alike. But the state governments remained nonchalant to the courts’ observations.
To discourage Dalits from converting to Christianity, not only the center but also the Indian states have deprived ‘Dalit Christians’ of minority-status privileges. The courts’ decisions being declaratory (certiorari), not mandatory (mandamus), remained un-implemented. Interestingly, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (February 1981) advised the state government and union territories to enact laws to regulate change of religion on the lines of the existing Acts in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Arunachal Pradesh. Such legislations violate the UN Charter of Human Rights which gives a person right to change his or her religion.
Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power in 2014, religious intolerance and anti-Christian violence has surged across India. Six women at Kilipala village in Jagatsinghpur district (Orissa) had their heads tonsured by influential Hindus. Their offence was abandoning Hindu faith at their own free will. Christian missionaries are harassed, deported and even killed. Indian government ordered ‘deportation of three American preachers from Church of Christ in North Carolina on the first available flight to the US.’ To insult them even further, the preachers were even attacked by Hindu fanatics.
Indian courts often act as kangaroo.
A few years back, Hindus attacked Christians as a response to a book which allegedly insulted Hindu deities. Investigations revealed that the book was not written by any Christian. But it happened to be displayed on one of the Emmanuel Mission’s bookshops for sale. The mission is a Christian organization that runs a chain of schools in various Indian states.
Hindus ignore the fact that Christian missionaries started coming to India, particularly the North-East, in the late 19th century. They promoted education and socio-economic developmental work in the region. In Rajasthan, the Emmanuel Mission, alone, runs over 50 schools.
Surge in persecution under BJP
Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took power in 2014, religious intolerance and anti-minority violence surged across India. In 2014, the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) documented 144 violent attacks on Indian Christians. In 2019, the latest data available, the number of attacks has more than doubled with EFI documenting 366 violent attacks.
The plight of Muslims is no less miserable. They join Muslim munch, a component f Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to escape persecution. Indian courts ruled that a mosque was not necessary for the Muslim mode of worship. Muslims offering prayers in open space were brutally eaten. Some Muslims, wearing prayer caps, were also beaten. Beef sellers or eaters are lynched. A Goa legislator complained that cow vigilantes (gau rakhshak) intercept beef trucks into Karnataka and put phenyl on it to make it unfit for eating.
Judge Mahesh Chandra Sharma of the Rajasthan High Court, in his 193-page judgment, stunned people by mentioning the mythical benefits of cow milk, urine and dung. His judgment, a mélange of scriptures and law, glistens with claims like ‘cow is a surgeon’, ‘a complete pharmacy’, and cow is a ‘national animal’.
While lynching the beef eaters, Hindus ignore that, according to the National Sample Survey Office, more than 80 million Indians consume beef, of whom Hindus account for 12.5 million, the rest belonging to various other communities, including Muslims and Christians.
Moreover, according to 2015 figures, India has been the largest exporter of beef since 2014 and has been outpacing Brazil in that realm steadily over the past few years. India’s Al-Dua is a leading exporter of halal/kosher meat to Arab nations.
BJP legislator Sangeet Som is a beef exporter. Goa allows beef consumption as does the Northeast. Both, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju and Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister openly admitted being beef eaters.
Indian authorities linked dozens of cases of COVID-19 to a Muslim missionary group (tableghi, preachers) that held its annual conference in Delhi in early March, and health officials raced to track down anyone who had contact with the participants. Videos falsely claiming to show members of the missionary group spitting on police and others quickly went viral on social media, exacerbating an already dangerous atmosphere for Muslims.
tweets with the hashtag #CoronaJihad appeared over 300,000 times and were potentially seen by 165 million people on Twitter. The social posts were mostly fake. For instance, one post purported to show a person spitting on a Hindu. The graphic post was fabricated in Thailand.
On the heels of the propaganda came religious pogroms conducted by Hindu nationalists leaving 36 Muslims dead, their houses and shops burnt, including some mosques where they took refuge, in Delhi. The pogroms were rooted in anti-Muslim hatred, dating back to pre-partition of the sub-continent. Subconsciously, Hindus believe that Muslims are untouchable. They are treated as a malaise.
The Indian Supreme Court validated the demolition of the Babri masjid. The Supreme Court judge Ranjan Gogoi was inducted, shortly after his retirement as a member of the Rajya Sabha (council of states) as quid pro quo for his pro-government decisions.
He took no action on the abolition of Kashmir’s special status. The serving Supreme Court judges rejected a petition for inquiry into Gogoi’s in-service conduct. The National Crime Records Bureau withheld collected data on murders; burning Muslims alive, cow-related lynching and offences committed for religious reason.
Hindu-monk chief minister Yogi Adityanath of India’s Uttar Pradesh state equated cows with human beings. He directed that cow-related offences be registered under India’s national Security Act. He jailed people for social posts `Love jihad’ and Pakistan zindabad. He declared that only the pandemic prevented him from allowing the whole India to make pilgrimage (Ram dashing) at the under-construction Ram temple at Babri mosque. Anyone differing with ruling BJP’s policies is prosecuted for sedition.
Persecution of minorities caricatures India’s secular face. The fanatic Hindus view Muslims as “anti-national, terrorists, and enemy of Hindu nation. Love jihad, “ghar wapsi” (reconversion), and cow vigilantism are tools to persecute Muslims. Indian prime minister refused to condemn lynching of the 55-year old Muhammad Akhlaq at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh by a mob about a hundred guards. Muslim are treated as second-class citizens. Sikhs are treated, legally, as Hindus. They have petitioned the British parliament against this juggernaut.
Walk of Truth calls for action after the Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief
Tasoula Hadjitofi, a refugee from Famagusta, cultural activist and president of Walk of Truth NGO, spoke in front of 800 participants from 100 countries and 60 ministers as an embodiment of agony and disappointment, her own and the Cypriot people’s, over the systematic and as yet unpunished violation of their religious freedom’s rights by Turkey’s occupying forces in Cyprus.
Ms Hadjitofi, one of the keynote speakers at the International Ministerial Conference to promote Freedom of Religion or Belief that took place in London on 5 and 6 July 2022, used her talk to send important messages to foreign representatives. She was also present at the event in her capacity as “The Icon Hunter”, the title of her book on Cyprus’ cultural treasures, looted by Turkey, and her ongoing struggle to repatriate stolen and illegally sold cultural goods.
The Conference was organized by the British government with the aim to “bring together governments, parliamentarians, faith and belief representatives and civil society in order to urge increased global action on freedom of religion or belief for all”.
Addressing Conference participants and thousands of online attendees, Ms Hadjitofi said she felt she spoke on behalf of everyone in the world who had been affected by war, who had suffered discriminations because of their faith or national identity, who has been denied their collective memories and rights of religious freedom. And she asked:
“Can you envisage being a 14-year-old girl in 1974, in the Republic of Cyprus, the Island of love and beauty? Can you imagine going to sleep full of dreams and then waking up after being threatened by the invading forces of Turkey which are using Napalm incendiary bombs and raping women and children around you? Can you begin to understand the impact this experience has on a child that sees as well as smells death, feels alone, abandoned and unprotected? Can you sense why that child felt exposed when nobody came to the rescue as that child was subjected to a forcible population transfer and, thus, ethnic cleansing? Can you understand why this child grew up to be critical of international policy makers and acquired a tendency to walk alone in life?”
“This child”, she added, “is me”. And she continued: “Due to my war-torn childhood experiences, I lost faith in the strong and powerful to provide justice. Yet, this prompted me to take justice into my own hands and I became an Icon Hunter, also the title of my book. I travelled the world, worked under cover with police forces to expose crooks and antiquities smugglers. My mission was to take away from those crooks and smugglers what they had stolen from me: pieces of my happy youth; the frescoes, mosaics and icons which were looted from the Churches and monasteries where I – and so many others – prayed in what became, in 1974, the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus”.
The President of Walk of Truth spoke in a dramatic tone as she addressed participants with these words: “I have a dream. I want to make one last pilgrimage before I die. I want to be able to go to my home, to pray to the Apostle Barnabas Monastery where I was baptized. I can’t because it was pillaged and converted to a museum. I want to go to St Mamas church in the village of Mandres, where my parents had gotten married. I can’t because it was looted and converted to a mosque. I want to go to Famagusta, the ghost-city, my city and my church. But I can’t go because everywhere I turn there’s barbwire and my church has been looted, ruined, robbed of its icons and mosaics that make part of my prayer”.
“In July 2021, Turkish President R.T. Erdogan announced he would go to Famagusta, my city, and pray at an illegal mosque. There was nobody there. I went to the site accompanied by two German reporters of Spiegel magazine. Erdogan prayed “from a distance” even as I could not pray in front of my looted church. There was not a single UN soldier there. There was no one to protect me. And I felt the same as I did when I was 14 years old. Today I am 63 and I still feel the same way”.
Ms Hadjitofi also referred to the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus, describing with dramatic clarity how she had erased from her memory the horror of the war, keeping only one image that stays with her to this day:
“My mother, a pious Christian Orthodox, is kneeling in front of the icon of Apostle Andreas praying, whilst holding the candle that she saved from our last Easter in Famagusta. So, I have dedicated my life to chasing around the world to track down looted icons and frescoes to bring them back to all Christian Orthodox mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers so they can pray for our freedom, as well as for our resurrection as a free and democratic nation”.
In the last part of her address – which caused a stir and stroke an emotional chord among most of the participants, prompting them to ask for more details about Turkey’s violations of religious freedoms in Cyprus – Ms Hadjitofi raised three crucial questions:
- Firstly, what is the point of having, on paper, that which Foreign Secretary Truss described yesterday as ‘the freedom to believe, to pray and commit acts of worship’ if that freedom and related human rights are systematically violated by ‘authoritarians and oppressors’, as she called the perpetrators of such violations?
- Secondly, what is the point of having, on paper, international humanitarian law, the law of occupation and international criminal law if these critically important areas of law are effectively rendered useless because of the selective delivery of international criminal justice?
- Thirdly, what is the point of having, on paper, the worthy statements published yesterday, including that on ‘Freedom of religion or belief in conflict or insecure contexts’, if such statements are not accompanied with concrete actions which actively change the situation on the ground? In this context, I must also ask a follow-up question. Why is Turkey not on the list of co-signatories?
“Impunity must end. We need universal respect for the rule of law and a uniform delivery of justice” were Ms Hadjitofi’s closing remarks.
Some wounds never heal: 38 Years till Date
The treatment meted out with Minorities in India has stripped off the so-called secular mask from the face of Narendra Modi’s fascist regime. India, on one side, claims itself to be a secular state, while on the other side, it persecutes minorities, especially Muslims and Sikhs. This recently planned activity of hate speech against Muslims, has given a clear message to the Indian Muslims that their sentiments make no difference in the Modi led regime. Because if they did, people like Nupur Sharma would have been sacked as and when they made a hateful remark and not after the International pressure and ridicule India faced immensely.
Minorities including Muslims and Sikhs have repeatedly expressed outrage at the blatant flouting of their core human rights especially on food, clothing, marriage and worship places. Yet, Modi led fascist regime has always turned a blind eye towards their concern.
In June 1984, the Indian Army attacked the familiar Golden Temple along with 41 other gurdwaaras of Sikh community all across the Indian Punjab. This assault was codenamed as “Operation Blue Star” and this marked a beginning of gross violations of Human Rights. Sikh community even on the 38th anniversary of Operation Blue Star are protesting carrying the flags of “Khalistan” demanding a separate state for Sikhs. One of the Protester says that “We are holding this march to reiterate our commitment to the struggle for independence, and to pay homage to the people who tasted martyrdom during the Indian army’s heinous attack.”
This operation was marked by Sikh leaders as the genocide of the Sikh community. They are still wounded with the thought that their leader was killed in this operation. Indian government had imposed draconian media censorship to hide the gruesome war crimes against Sikhs during the ‘Operation Blue Star’ by their Army.
Post this gruesome incident, 20,000 Sikh families fearing for their life migrated out from India. Many of them resigned from their jobs and returned medals they had received from the Indian authorities as a protest against the attack on Golden Temple.
These historical moves were always deliberate in nature whether it was Golden temple or Babri Masjid, whether it was Sikhs or Muslims. It was always about promoting Hindutva with a mask of secularism. Modi’s Hegemonic designs were always with an aim of targeting minorities of the country. The Butcher of Gujrat has now become a butcher of so many of the Minorities including Sikhs and Muslims. The recent event of Nupur Sharma hateful remark is just a chain of the previous events because it represents Narendra Modi’s anarchist mindset.
Analysts believe that the genocide against minorities in India is already on the cards. The world must wake up! Before it’s too late!
Be fearful of the genocide by Modi!! Be very fearful!
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