Elie Wiesel and the question of theodicy
The back of this year’s Fellowship of Reconciliation holiday card includes a quote by Nobel Peace Laureate Elie Wiesel that reflects the importance, complexity, and inviolability of each individual’s life and experience. The particularity, humanity, and sacredness of each person are values that FOR holds dear.
However, we’ve learned since printing the card of Wiesel’s more recent stands as an apologist for the State of Israel’s settlement policies in the West Bank and Gaza, and advocacy of sanctions on Iran. These positions are inconsistent with FOR’s long-held stances and advocacy for an end to occupation and apartheid in Israel/Palestine and an end to sanctions on Iran.
We do not believe that Wiesel’s viewpoints on these issues will bring a just peace. We regret that we did not choose another quote, as the mixed history of Elie Wiesel’s convictions took away from what we were trying to achieve with the holiday card, namely a celebration of the diversity and depth of FOR’s work, with and through our members, on behalf of peace.
We were attracted to Wiesel’s quote because it calls on each of us to refrain from simple judgments, to interact with others through the fullness of their complexity.
Ironically, because Wiesel was spared death in Auschwitz, Buna, and Buchenwald, he has lived a long life, now fraught with the complexity of both heroic choices and choices that have furthered oppression. Though we do not condone his positions on Israel/Palestine or sanctions on Iran and actively struggle against them, we believe he deserves the same grace of being understood in the fullness of his 85 years.
Wiesel has struggled with the question of theodicy through the lens of his own faith. This struggle is key to the work we do at FOR, and we hope that Wiesel will continue to struggle and come to different conclusions and choose different actions in support of human rights in the Middle East. As a result of this situation, we have decided to reach out to Mr. Wiesel to open a dialogue.
As an interfaith community of members and supporters seeking peace through the transformative power of nonviolence, the Fellowship of Reconciliation has the blessing of being able to struggle with one another in addressing the complex questions of peace and justice of our time. Thanks to those who have written us to question the use of the quote. You were right to reach out; we need your interlocution, your own struggle, your faithfulness and commitment to peace with justice to truly be the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Photo ©ErlingMandelmann.ch [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.