HRH The Prince of Wales has been presented with the Council of Christian and Jews’ prestigious Bridge Award.
The award took place at Spencer House in central London, attended by CCJ’s Chair, Trustees and one of its Presidents, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.
Introduced in 2017 for CCJ’s 75th anniversary, the Bridge Award is an annual award for someone who has made an exceptional and leading contribution to building bridges between peoples, in a Christian-Jewish or wider setting. HRH received the Bridge Award for 2020, but the presentation of it was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In previous years, the awards have been received by:
- 2017 – Smith family (for Holocaust education work)
- 2018 – Rabbi Lord (Jonathan) Sacks (Chief Rabbi from 1991-2013)
- 2019 – Lord (Jacob) Rothschild (businessman and philanthropist)
Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave, Chair of CCJ and Bishop of Lichfield said:
“We are delighted to present our Bridge award to The Prince. Since 1942, CCJ has been building bridges between peoples and communities. In a similar vein, His Royal Highness has been a bridge builder extraordinaire, supporting diverse faith and ethnic communities over several decades. He has been a steadfast friend of all the faith communities, reflecting the duality of the monarchy’s role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England but also at the helm of a multi-faith country and Commonwealth. To borrow the words of the famous American Jewish folk duo Simon & Garfunkel, The Prince has been a Bridge over Troubled Water.”
Zaki Cooper, CCJ Trustee and Founder of the Bridge Award said:
“The task of building bridges remains as necessary as ever, as an antidote to polarisation, division and ignorance. The Prince has been a long-standing champion of this important work between different religious groups, and also as a particularly steadfast friend to minority faith and ethnic groups. Whilst diversity and inclusion has become a buzzword recently, The Prince has been championing this agenda over many years, out of a sense of humanity and the common good. He not only has an acute understanding of the value of faith in theory but is also a friend of all the faiths in practice.”
The inscription on the plaque reads: 2020 Bridge Award HRH The Prince of Wales: For outstanding efforts to build bridges and understanding between communities.
REMARKS FROM HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE PRINCE OF WALES AT THE BRIDGE AWARDS, HOSTED BY THE
COUNCIL OF CHRISTIANS AND JEWS (C.C.J.)
AT SPENCER HOUSE,
WEDNESDAY, 23RD JUNE 2021
Ladies and Gentlemen, I really am most touched and honoured to have received the Bridge Award from the Council of Christians and Jews, you have taken me by surprise and I can’t tell you how flattered I am. It is extraordinary to think I was here only eighteen months ago to present the Award to Lord Rothschild, and little did I think I would be summoned back to Spencer House to be given the Award myself. Needless to say, I am enormously grateful to Lord Rothschild for his very kind message and only wish he was here this evening, and of course his hospitality on this occasion, which from what I gather is one of the first events they have been able to have in Spencer House for the last sixteen months or so.
The Council of Christians and Jews was established, of course, nearly eighty years ago and was far ahead of its time in recognizing how religious and racial prejudice, hatred and discrimination present such a threat to the harmony of our society.
Yet I do think the essence of its mission has never been more relevant than it is today. We must not forget that the C.C.J. was founded in 1942, at the height of the Holocaust, by Chief Rabbi Hertz and Archbishop Temple in order to support Jewish refugees from Europe and combat anti-semitism, and to build a bridge between Jewish and Christian communities at the most dire moment in their long, often troubled relationship. For a long time, C.C.J.’s mission reflected the widespread belief shared by both communities in religious tolerance, in respect for the facts of history and the lessons of World War Two, in our shared hostility to all discrimination equally.
This noble mission and this widely held vision about what is right are now challenged by the vicious distortions of history which attempt to diminish or deny the Jewish experience of anti-semitism over the millennia, but particularly the Holocaust.
The C.C.J. clearly has an absolutely vital role in educating both adults and children in the lessons that history teaches us, especially about the Holocaust. Just months before lockdown I took part in the 75th Anniversary at the Yad Vashem International Holocaust Centre in Jerusalem. I must say I was humbled and greatly moved by the survivors whom I met who shared their heart-rending stories with me on that occasion. Their courage and their grace left an indelible impression on me at the time.
While in the Holy Land, I experienced another of C.C.J.’s priorities as I witnessed some of the tensions between Israel and the Occupied Territories and heard the different narratives and understood afresh, I think, the importance of learning conflict resolution skills to facilitate improved dialogue around the most complex issues.
It is one of the reasons that I am so deeply moved to have been given this Award by you this evening. Trying to build bridges between faith communities and to deepen mutual understanding, has been a major part of my life’s work. So, I cannot tell you how profoundly grateful I am for such a very special accolade.
We here know the vital role that faith communities have played across the world during this ghastly pandemic. Consoling the bereaved, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry and helping people financially. The more we continue to do this, together, across the faiths, the greater will be the harmony in the world as we come out of lockdown.
Never, I would say, has the C.C.J. been more needed in our conflict-torn world.
With God’s help, Christians and Jews – and, for that matter, Muslims – must continue to work together for Peace and Harmony.
Words given to the Prophet Isaiah should perhaps be our inspiration:
‘Thou wilt keep them in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee’.