Last week, the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, created a firestorm of controversy when he said to a group of evangelical leaders that the Holocaust could be forgiven but not forgotten. But in response to an uproar from the Jewish community in Israel, he claimed “that his remarks had been misinterpreted.”
As he explained, “Forgiveness is something personal, my speech was never meant to be used in a historical context, especially one where millions of innocent people were murdered in a cruel genocide.”
Is there a difference, then, between forgiving and forgetting? And is there a difference of opinion between Judaism and Christianity when it comes to these important (and difficult) subjects?
This past Thursday, in a meeting with evangelical pastors, Bolsonaro said (with reference to the Holocaust), “We can forgive, but we cannot forget. Those who forget their past are sentenced not to have a future.”
So, it would seem that he felt it important to emphasize the importance of keeping the cmemory of the Holocaust alive while at the same time allowing for the possibility of forgiveness.
In response, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted (but without specifically referencing Bolsonaro), “We will never extend our hand to those who deny the truth or attempt to erase it. Not individuals or organizations, not heads of parties and not heads of states. We will never forgive and never forget. No one will order the Jewish people’s forgiveness and no interest will buy it.”
And Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Israel, said in a statement that, “We disagree with the Brazilian president’s statement that the Holocaust can be forgiven. It is not in anyone’s position to determine who and if Holocaust crimes can be forgiven.”
What should we make of these statements?
Do they reflect Jewish thought regarding the possibility of repentance? And do they mirror Christian thought?
I can certainly understand the swift response from Israel, as if the Gentile, Christian president of Brazil can decide to pronounce forgiveness for the Nazis and their partners in crime.
Click here to read more.
SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Brown