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December 20, 2015 4:04 pm

In United Nations Address, French Philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy Calls for ‘Muslim Nostra Aetate’

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French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who addressed the UN last week. Photo: Wikipedia.

French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who addressed the UN last week. Photo: Wikipedia.

Famed French philosopher and humanitarian Bernard-Henri Lévy last week called on the Muslim world to formulate its own version of the famed Nostra Aetate declaration by Pope Paul VI in 1965.

The document, which denounced antisemitism and effectively absolved Jews for the death of Jesus, amounted to a historic reset of Catholic-Jewish relations and also outlined the Church’s modern attitude to other world faiths.

Speaking at an event at the United Nations on Wednesday, co-hosted by the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) and the Nuncio of the Vatican to the UN, Lévy said, “I would say, with all possible humility and respect, that it would be so great, it would make such a difference, it would be such a revolution, maybe a revolution as big as was the revolution of Nostra Aetate, if there were tomorrow, or in 10 years, but tomorrow would be better, a Nostra Aetate inside the Muslim world.”

Elaborating on the feasibility of his proposal, Lévy continued:

If we had — and I know that they exist; I know that they are a majority; I know that they are the body of Islam — clerics, academics, men and women of goodwill and of faith who stand and who say when they see the jihad: ‘This is not our Islam; our Islam says this and that;’ if there were some clerics who would do what you did, you Catholics, what we Jews have done since ages. This is Talmud. Talmud is a vaccination against dogmatism because Talmud is every day to reread and reinterpret the dogmas…

…but let’s imagine some clerics, some academics, some women and men of goodwill doing this work of rereading, reintegrating, putting in the context of Nostra Aetate, ‘our age,’ the holy work of which, then, in the model of Nostra Aetate will spread in this way, if we could have this last avatar, it would really change the world and it would really solve the ‘uneasiness’ in civilization which we are today dealing with. So please, a Muslim Nostra Aetate!

Lévy also pointed to recent comments made by Pope Francis I as effectively continuing the spirit of the Vatican’s historic declaration.

“Pope Francis, what he said in a recent interview with a Spanish newspaper, that in the heart of every Christian, and especially in every single Catholic, there is a part which is Jew… he is continuing the process of Nostra Aetate,” Lévy said.

The public intellectual also referred to a Vatican publication from a few days prior, which called on Catholics to stop trying to convert Jews, and instead to work with them to combat antisemitism as another continuation of the process of Nostra Aetate.

“When a few days ago, the Vatican’s congregation devoted to this question, produces a new text wherein it is said, if I understood well, that the belief in Christ is the condition for salvation, but that the Jews who do not recognize Christ are part of the salvation, and in the first rank, in the front line for this battle for salvation. and when this text says that to combine the two propositions together is a mystery, and a mystery of faith, we are in the deep, in the beating heart of the spirit of Nostra Aetate. And this is not 10 years ago, this is two days ago,” he said. “So Nostra Aetate is a process still going on, still living today.”

The UN event was held to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Nostra Aetate, also known as the Second Vatican Council — or Vatican II — which marked a watershed in the reduction of institutional antisemitism and proved to be the beginning of a journey of cooperation and respect. The event’s host, IJCIC, is the international umbrella of major Jewish organizations engaged in interreligious dialogue, including the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and B’nai B’rith.

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  • Jack

    As much as the idea Levy seeks to bring in to reality is needed by all the world, the energy created by the anti- Israeli lobby is seeking ways to go kinetic, having spent three generations indoctrinating their children with false teaching marinated in hatred, supported by successive Muslim nations governments, will not be deterred by a simple statement…
    We are approaching 60 years since Nasser ruled Egypt and still the endemic poverty and inequality purvey outcomes unsatisfactory to most Egyptians.
    Reform of Islam, separation of mosque and state are vital to rid Muslim nations of corruption.
    Europe had to relieve itself from the Dark Age.
    Islam is suffering it’s own Dark Age now.
    And not just Egypt.

  • Danny Kid

    The problem with Levy’s proposals is that, like so many non Muslims, he makes the false assumption that when he sits across a table from a Muslim, he thinks he is looking into a mirror. He is not.

  • Loomis

    Great idea! Odds are it won’t happen, at least in our lifetimes, but hopefully some Muslim leaders might be persuaded to get a movement started.

  • Sammish

    Sorry push submit prematurely,
    See Sura 4:157 for description of the crucifixion of another man than Jesus (Issa). Second, moslems do not have the guts to question their God written good book, for all its anti-Jewish renditions. I can count sura after sura in which Jews are depicted in the most vile and deceitful possible descriptions. One that always keep emerging, even currently from the mouths of the imams and people alike that Jews as Apes and Swines. You go tell them, Bernard, about changing this description, when this is the word of God. It is hopeless. I am not sure Bernard has really gave a thought about this. Wish him good luck though.

  • Sammish

    Good intention, Bernard, but it will not happen, but wishful thinking. First, Moslems are not and were not deicide. They did not kill the son of God. They believe that Jesus got away and the crucifixion was a hoax because somebody with the same appearance as Jesus (Issa) was sacrificed (See sura 4:1 w awaySecond, muslims

  • Holy Shirt

    Were Jewish prophets warriors? Were Christian prophets? Muslim prophets were, and continue to be. Case closed!

  • William Hausman

    Suppose the Muslims told the Christians to de-sanctify Jesus Christ, i.e., eliminate “Christ” from all liturgy, etc. since it refers to a messiah who, by Christian doctrine, will deliver redemption and salvation to the world’s people. That’s similar to what we are/would be asking of the Muslims: no longer consider Mohammad a prophet and his legacy of commandments. Evolution, any category of evolution,but especially religious evolution,proceeds from top-down only after critical clamor from the bottom-up. In other words, any abrogation of Mohammad,Islam, and the Qur’an to whatever degree, would similarly require the abrogation of Jesus, Christianity and the New testament by believers in each religion. Then leaders will act

  • “…by peace shall destroy many Daniel 8:25
    “He seeks to change dates, seasons and years. Daniel 7:25

  • Julian Clovelley

    An excellent idea but what would Zionists (sic) offer in support of such a proposal and statement? In both religions what is most needed is the abandoning of the religious claim to land ownership, enabling a secular compromise, which must include withdrawing from the West Bank and a proper negotiation over the status of Jerusalem

    Outside the Zionist community one wonders just how long it will take for both sides to realise there can be no progress unless the delusions of Divine Donations is treated as mythologies

    • Harry

      Quite interesting that you single out Zionist for “delusion of divine donations” when that is the root of the Palestinian cause. the fact you didn’t know that Zionist arose from secular Jews who didn’t care for Israel on religious grounds (some Zionists wanted a state in Uganda) shows your ignorance or your bias. Pick one.

    • A Zionist

      Do you really not understand anything? Go back and read and understand the Conference of San Remo, the Treaty of San Remo (1922), the League of Nations Mandates for Iraq, Syria, Lebanon (for the Arabs) and Palestine (for the Jewish people administered and betrayed by Britain).
      Jewish claim ie who has the legal title to Jerusalem and therefore the Land of Israel has already been shown to belong to the Jewish people by Dr Jaques Gauthier, a French-Canadian international lawyer. He spent 26 years to complete his Ph.D thesis, granted by the University of Geneva.
      Gauthier’s lecture can be seen at YouTube.
      There is no doubt as to the legal claim of the Jewish people. The problem lies in the refusal and hatred of the Arabs and their “useful idiots” such as the EU and the US.

    • L. King

      Why? It’s an old Christian accusation that Judaism is invalidated by its carnal nature, its fusing of spirituality and the real world. What Christians see as a defect, Jews see as a strength. All you’ve done is to secularize old Christian values.

      So no, your requirement that Jews be more Christian should be rejected out of hand.

      Instead I suggest the following exercise. Go to Mecca and stand in front of the Qabba. Announce that Muslims are fools for believing in divine promises and that they should embrace secular values by taking in Palestinian, Iraqi and Syrian refugees as Arab brothers and make them full citizens in their own societies iostead of festering them in refugee camps and that this will bring peace to the middle east. Assuming you are still alive at this point, mention that neither “Palestine” nor “Palestinians” appear in the Quran, that Islam has never made any holy city its capital and that Palestinians have no special religious claims on Jerusalem and al Aqsa, and if they did such claims would be meaningless. Mention that you are entirely skeptical about stories of flying horses and the whole story of Mohammed’s (pbuh) ascendancy through the 7 levels of heaven.

      It’s a thought experiment, and at this time of the year, it’s the thought that counts. If you ever carry it out, please keep us informed as to your success. I’ll purchase a ouiji board just in case. 😉

    • Alexi

      There is no “proper negotiation” to take place over the “status” of Jerusalem. Like Berlin, it is ONE city. It is the eternal capital of the Jewish Nation. That has nothing whatsoever to do with religion. That’s a historical and legal FACT.

      However, if you’d like more of a secular take on Jerusalem, you could address the lunatic belief in Flying Donkeys from a Non-Existent Mosque to Heaven by a “Prophet” who had been DEAD 3 years prior to this “Mosques” construction.

    • Mandrake

      Some people cannot help showing their anti-Semitism and ignorance. Forgive him.

  • Robert Davis

    This cannot happen with moslems who are deep in their ruling the world period! Nostra acetate could not happen in the 15th C. Under …isabel the catholic…

  • Lauren Goldman

    There is a glaring fact why this will never happen; the goal of islam is to establish a global caliphate in which people convert to islam or they get killed. Moderate muslims may not agree with the extreme methods used by some, but the ultimate goal is the same. It is one of the pillars of islam. When ninety percent of all shooting conflicts, worldwide, involve islamist jihadists, their focus on Jews and Israel keeps the world from actually seeing what is going on.

    • Susan

      There is no moderate Islam. Only Islam. Yes there is some different one who do the killing and the other who only agree. Even if not agree they are Islam and maybe everybody should read the Quran . The religion are the same. Back at the Middle Ages .

  • Yoel Nitzarim

    In the early 1980s, I taught English in a Catholic high school, named Aquinas Catholic High School, located on the south side of Chicago. It was a terrific opportunity to transition into life in the States after a failed attempt at aliyah in the middle and late 70s. At Aquinas, I was able to teach in a all-African-American girl’s school and share our common Judeo-Christian heritage. On one Shabbat, the principal, an art teacher, and the school social worker drove from the south side of Chicago to the north side of Chicago, a pilgrimage of some twenty miles through the entire city to share a Shabbat meal with my parents and me. Everyone was excited because it was a real sharing, a real homecoming of sorts. Sr. Jean Hughes, the principal delivered a brief speech at the outset of the meal. Her tone was one of deep reverence, kindness, compassion, and comprehension of the moment. In so many many words, she related the breaking of the challah between Christian and Jew to the deep-seated roots she always felt as a Christian toward Jesus’s foundation and life mission as a practicing Jew. She emphasised that Christians necessarily had to understand the man that Jesus was to know how it is to be Christian. This was said in my parents’ home, a Jewish home. As I chanted the prayer over the challah, I watched he countenances of the principal, the art teacher, and the social worker, all devout nuns, a came to the realisation that we Jews and Christians really do share common roots, not only in terms of our humanity, but also in reference to our common understanding and profound acceptance of the paradigm shift from the brief in many gods to the belief in the One G-d.

    What happened at the UN event last week was a necessary continuation of the needed discussion among Jews, Christians, and Muslims all to relevant to the turmoil facing the entire civiled world today. I wish to commend Bernard-Henri Levy, a fellow Jew, and more importantly, a fellow human being, for his thinking and speaking out on this most salient of all contemporary issues in which millions of lives are at stake.

  • It might be a great idea, if Muslims had a pope.

  • True and nice words.IJCIC is a necessary group, but it should include in its membership people from marginal Jewish or lets say Hebrew communities, because they too have contributions to make.

  • Martin Katchen

    Given a new Marja (Grand Ayatollah) who does not apparently share a name with Haman Harasha (Khamenei) it might be possible for Twelver Shia Islam to make such a declaration as a fatwa and have it accepted. The situaiton in Sunni Islam is more problematic, given that there is nobody with the authority to speak for Sunni Islam as a whole. There, ulema who attempt such a declaration would be likely to be assasinated rather than such a fatwa gain acceptance.

  • they are not bothered about Jesus being crucified by the Jews or not because they say that he was not killed on the cross but Judas Iscariot or simon of cyrene was crucified instead. Moreover their hadith says that Adam was a giant like goliath from Sri lanka. So it is not at all a problem for them to call them as philistines

  • David

    Mr. Levy needs to recall that with all of the rhetoric, the Vatican has still found it too difficult to permit access to the files of Pope Pius prior to and during World War II, which is necessary to properly assess his response to the Holocaust, and the degree to which the Vatican was complicit with the Nazis, both during and after the War.

    Unlike Christianity, during the course of its history Islam, has essentially had no central religious authority recognized by all Moslems. Even if a recognizable authority were to announce the equivalent of Vatican II, it would merely subject its adherents to greater enmity, oppression discrimination and death. Unlike Christianity, Islam has always been characterized by its tribal affiliations, which complicate matters that much more.

    In short, dreaming about Islam reinventing itself in the face of its prime religious texts which encourage jihad against non-Moslems, is not realistic and is mere wishful thinking. The West can only prevail when all elements of Islam come to the same realization, e.g that the West will not tolerate the quasi official encouragement of the Moslem activists to wage war against Westerners. That can only be done when the West is no longer dependent on Arab Oil and when it recognizes, before it is too late, the true nature of Islam. For some countries in Europe, such as France, Belgium and Sweden, it may already be too late.

  • MH8169

    With all due respect to the respected philosopher, I would venture to express that his idea is like the man selling the Brooklyn Bridge for a $3.00 bill. It ain’t going to happen. If it does, then I would say: OMG, there is man’s face on the moon.

  • nelson marans

    It will never happen unfortunately.

  • rbockman

    what a dope, it’s called an exercise in futility