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Leicester renounces anti-Semitism.

How far back should modern day societies go in renouncing the evils in their past?

At the end of January, as Britain observed its first national Holocaust Memorial Day, the City Council of Leicester unanimously renounced the anti-semitism of its 800-year-old founding charter. Simon de Montfort's charter of circa 1231 stated `No Jew or Jewess in my time, or in the time of any of my heirs to the end of the world, shall inhabit or remain, or obtain a residence, in Leicester.'

Simon de Montfort notwithstanding, there has been a significant Jewish population in Leicester since the 1840s, with one Jewish Lord Mayor being elected four times. But City Councillors believed it was important to reassert Leicester's commitment to racial tolerance. Within 10 years Leicester could be the first city in Britain with a non-white majority population.

Introducing the initiative, Councillor Veejay Patel, a Hindu, said that views expressed in the charter were in tune with the national thinking of its time. `Although recognizing they are not relevant today may appear unnecessary,' he said, `we have an opportunity for the citizens of Leicester, through their elected representatives, to proudly reaffirm Leicester as a vibrant, integrated and harmonious city that celebrates its rich cultural diversity.'

The leader of the 56-person City Council, Councillor Ross Willmot, who is from a Jewish heritage, said, `It's extremely personal for me. I would not be allowed to be leader of this council because I would not be allowed to be in this city.' He said that the hate-mail which had resulted from the Council's action showed `why it was important to do this'. The initiative was also welcomed by Rabbi Chaim Kanteovitz, of the Leicester Hebrew Association.

The petition to the City Council about the charter was prompted by the Watchman Prayer Ministry. Its spokesman, Dan Kay, commented, `The city and the media saw it as a repudiation of racism and a positive reaffirmation of the city's commitment to cultural diversity, but the Christians involved believe it is also important as the removal of an obstacle to spiritual blessing and renewal.'
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Author:Henderson, Michael
Publication:For A Change
Date:Apr 1, 2001
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