U.S. Christian Leaders to Attend Brussels Confab and Are Expected to Issue a ‘call to Conscience’

Thirteen prominent U.S. Christian leaders will join with world-wide representatives of Jewish communities in a demonstration of solidarity with Soviet Jews at the Second World Conference on Soviet Jewry to be held Feb. 17-19 in Brussels. (See related stories Page 1.)

The Christian leaders are expected to issue a “Call to Conscience.” demanding that Soviet authorities provide full human rights to Soviet Jews, including the right to emigrate, as provided in the Helsinki Declaration signed by the Soviet Union and 34 other countries last summer. The delegation of Christian leaders at the Brussels conference will represent the National Interreligious Task Force on Soviet Jewry. The group, founded in 1972, draws together Roman Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Eastern Orthodox, and Jews in an interreligious effort to secure basic human rights for Soviet Jews.

Its national co-chairpersons are: Sister Margaret Ellen Traxler, of Chicago; Prof. Andre LaCocque, of the United Church of Christ and a member of the faculty of Chicago Theological Seminary; and Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum. National Interreligious Affairs Director of the American Jewish Committee.

Sister Ann Gillen, executive director of the Task Force, will coordinate the participation of the delegation of Christian leaders at the Brussels meeting, Rabbi A James Rudin, assistant director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, serves, as executive chairman of the Task Force. In addition to the Christian leaders from the U.S., Sister Marie Erst, member of the Irish Commission for Justice and Peace of Dublin, is expected to participate in the conference.

In announcing the formation of the delegation, Sister Gillen said: “The world must recognize that the issue of religious freedom, the right of emigration and an end to harassment of Jews in the Soviet Union is not an issue for Jews alone but is one that is of deep concern to all who care about human rights. It is important that Soviet. authorities be forced to live up to the obligations that they assumed in the Helsinki Declaration. Our Christian delegation, by its presence in Brussels, will bear witness to the universality of the struggle to secure the legitimate human rights of Soviet Jews.”

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