I would like to make an observation concerning the use of Jewish cemeteries for building projects, as this has come to be a major issue of controversy in Lithuania, and in other nations as well.
I would like to pose a question: Would these building projects be pursued if the cemeteries in question were the resting places of Catholics, Protestant Christians, or other non-Jewish people?
If the answer is yes, then this would be an obvious lack of respect and sensitivity towards the descendants of the people buried there, but at least it would be a general lack of sensitivity towards human dignity in general, but it would not be a sentiment that targeted a certain group of people.
My guess, however, is that the answer to my question would be no, these building projects would not be pursued on cemeteries where Christians are buried. If that is the case, then clearly this type of thing shows again a devaluing of the Jew, a total lack of respect, and a particularly unattractive arrogance that I would think that Christians would never approve of.
One people group looking down on another has never been considered a Christian virtue. In scripture, God makes many statements about the proud and arrogant, and be assured that none of them are positive. An arrogant or bigoted Christian sounds like an oxymoron to me because anyone who ascribes to the teachings of Jesus would have to realize that his life and future are a gift from a loving God who forgives us only as we forgive others. We are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. Also, God makes it clear that He lifts up the humble, but brings down the proud.
A woman we know was walking down the streets of Vilnius when she saw a drunken man walking down the street. He began to speak to her, and said that he was Catholic, and that he loved everyone … except the Jews. The woman asked him, “When you kiss the crucifix, whose feet are you kissing? And Mother Mary, what nationality is she?” At this the drunken man thought momentarily, and then dropped to his knees in broad daylight, and asked God to forgive him. When are we as Christians going to realize that to hate the Jew is to hate Jesus Himself, his mother, Mary, St. Paul, St. John, and a host of others who we would say we have the greatest respect for? Don’t we read our Bibles and see that the Jews are the apple of God’s eye?
To treat the Jews with disrespect is tantamount to poking God in the eye! Why can’t we give up this ugly stain on the garments of the Church, the one called antisemitism? It is the most long-standing offense that I know of, and probably the most offensive sin of the Church in the eyes of God.
Pastor Michael Maass is Director of the Lithuanian Branch of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem