This speech was given by Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner at a vigil in Westminster with faith leaders including the Archbishop of Canterbury. The leaders called for an end to impunity in this crisis and stood together in solidarity with those suffering in Iraq.
“How could you think that your blood is redder than anyone else’s?” These words are from Talmud, Judaism’s most influential legal work. It was written in Babylon, present day Iraq, when Jewish life flourished there over a thousand years ago. Our Rabbis taught that no one’s blood is redder than another’s. No person’s life is more valuable than another’s. Jews lived and flourished alongside Muslims and Christians in the great centre of Islamic study, Baghdad, for many hundreds of years. As Jews, we believe that every human is created in the Divine image. The right to life is universal and inviolable. In Britain, Babylon or Baghdad.
Fast forward to today and the reality for Iraq’s religious minorities is unthinkably different – Christians, Yazidis and other vulnerable groups are displaced from their homes and slaughtered. The are victims to a distortion of the peaceful faith and way of life that is Islam. It’s hard for us to keep track of the daily massacres or come to terms with the extent of human suffering. As people of faith, we mustn’t be numbed by the reality of torture that Christians and Yazidis face every day either.
As the reading on the Innocent Victims’ Memorial here tells us, “is it nothing to you, all you who pass by.” It is precisely that cry of innocent victims that echoes through our hearts and souls today. That’s why we are here – to be the voice of innocent victims. All of our blood is as red as each other’s. Everyone, whatever religious group they belong to, or none, deserves a life of safety, health and dignity. People who abuse the name of God to inflict wanton harm and torture on others do not know the true nature of God or the religion they falsely represent.
As faith communities, we will always stand together against tyranny, oppression and the violation of human rights. We pray for all those suffering in Iraq.
Grant us peace, Your most precious gift, O Eternal Source of peace, and give us the will to proclaim its message to all the peoples of the earth.