Former British chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks has called on the European Union to assist the refugees currently flooding the continent, writing that "a bold act of collective generosity will show that the world, particularly Europe, has learned the lesson of its own dark past and is willing to take a global lead in building a more hopeful future."
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In an opinion piece published by the Guardian on Sunday, Sacks refers to the plight of the Jews of Europe in the late Thirties. "Jews were desperate to leave," he writes, " yet country after country shut its doors. Nation after nation in effect said it wasn’t their problem."
"At such times, even small humanitarian gestures can light a flame of hope," Sacks writes, pointing to the rescue of some 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi Germany in an initiative that became known as the Kindertransport.
"As long as human history is told, these acts of humanitarianism will stand as a triumph of the spirit over political expediency and moral indifference."
Sacks acknowledges that the influx of refugees into Europe is "a massive crisis," but avers that "now is a unique opportunity to show that the ideals for which the European Union and other international bodies such as the United Nations were formed are still compelling, compassionate and humane."
"I used to think that the most important line in the Bible was 'Love your neighbor as yourself,''' Sacks writes. "Then I realized that it is easy to love your neighbor because he or she is usually quite like yourself. What is hard is to love the stranger, one whose color, culture or creed is different from yours."
Sacks concludes by saying that "wars that cannot be won by weapons can sometimes be won by the sheer power of acts of humanitarian generosity to inspire the young to choose the way of peace instead of holy war."