January 25, 2020 — Warsaw, Poland
On the second day of a groundbreaking interfaith mission to Poland, the leaders of American Jewish Committee (AJC) and Muslim World League (MWL) reaffirmed their new partnership by committing to ensure memory of the Holocaust, combat hatred and racism, and foster a new era in Muslim-Jewish relations.
Following their historic joint visit to Auschwitz on January 23, the high-level Muslim and Jewish delegations together visited the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, the TatarskaStreet Mosque, the Nozyk Synagogue, and ended the day with a celebratory interfaith Shabbat dinner.
“We condemn the horrific acts that took place at Auschwitz against the Jews. It is a stain on humanity,” said MWL Secretary General Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa. “The evidence we saw yesterday shook us all. It was so painful for me looking at human hair, at children’s shoes, at so much more evidence of the atrocity.”
Al-Issa, who is based in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, led a delegation of 62 Muslims, including 25 prominent religious leaders, from 28 countries on several continents. The mission is the most senior Islamic leadership delegation to ever visit Auschwitz or any Nazi German death camp.
Al-Issa called those around the world who engage in Holocaust denial “partners in the crime. They are like Nazis themselves.”
Emphasizing that Muslims and Jews have much in common, he said, “Even if we could act on ten percent of the commonality, it would help bring peace to the world.”
“The meetings today and yesterday should send a strong message about our cooperation against those who twist the word of God to generate hate towards others, towards humanity,” Al-Issa said.
The joint mission to Poland is a key element of the Memorandum of Understanding between AJC and MWL, which was signed by Al-Issa and Harris at AJC headquarters, in New York, on April 30, 2019.
The Auschwitz visit and series of meetings in Warsaw confirmed the potential for further joint efforts. Harris and Al Al-Issa referred to each other as “partners”.
“Our twenty-first century challenge at AJC is to write a new chapter between the Muslim and Jewish peoples,” said Harris. “There are those who want to keep us divided. We will not let them win. It’s about nothing less than defining the future of the world in which we want to live.”
To commemorate Al-Issa’s forward-looking leadership, AJC President Harriet Schleifer presented, during an interfaith program at the Nozyk Synagogue, an artwork with the injunction “to remember” in Hebrew (Zakhor), Arabic (Udhkur), and English.
“We pray that your visit to Auschwitz will be a clarion call to action for Muslims and all humanity to learn the hard lessons of history — that hatred and demonization of a people nearly led to their total destruction,” said Schleifer. “We must never allow it to happen again to anyone.”
The 100 attendees at the Shabbat dinner, held at The Royal Palace, brought together leading Polish government and parliamentary officials, including the Speaker of the Senate, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Secretary of State in the Office of the President of the Republic, as well as leading Christian clergy, among them the Primate of Poland, ambassadors to Poland from Australia, Canada, and Germany, top representatives of the Polish Jewish community, and other friends of AJC.
AJC established an office in Warsaw in 2017. It focuses on seven countries — Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia. Sebastian Rejak is the Acting Director of AJC Central Europe.