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Will Europe refuse to be silent in the face of Hamas terror?

Voice for Freedom rally in Geneva (Photo courtesy)

On Sunday, Oct. 22, approximately 1,000 people gathered in Geneva Switzerland, between the headquarters of the European Union and the International Red Cross.

Their purpose was to call upon Europeans to join the fight to free over 200 hostages abducted from southern Israel by the Hamas terror group on Oct. 7. These hostages, taken into the underground tunnels of Gaza, include people of some 25 nationalities, male and female, from infants to the elderly. At least 54 of the hostages are Thai workers, who came to Israel to work in agriculture.

While all 19 of the German-speaking cantons (areas) of Switzerland put a prohibition on demonstrations for Israel or for Hamas into place, the French-speaking city of Geneva allowed the gathering to take place.

The Voice for Freedom coalition is made up of 250 different Christian organizations from 70 countries and is led by Israeli lawyer Calev Myers. The speakers at the Geneva event included three family members of hostages, as well as various Christian leaders from across Europe.

I spoke to an Israeli citizen, Erika Panchaud, now living in Switzerland, who drove two hours with her husband to participate in the event.

Erika told me it brought her great encouragement to participate, for multiple reasons. She, like many, felt helpless in the face of the shocking events that unfolded in the early morning hours of Oct. 7 in southern Israel.

She also had been feeling isolated from her fellow Israelis, living in Europe, and longed to be connected to her people. In addition, she was motivated to see Europe choose a different path than the one so many chose during the Holocaust. This last point was the rallying cry of the gathering: That Europe must not be silent in the face of evil.

Erika Panchaud and her husband (Photo courtesy)

The speakers explained that too many in Europe ignored the plight of the Jewish people in the 1940s, as Hitler’s extermination plan for the Jews, “Final Solution” was put into action and that too many felt it wasn’t their place to fight for the lives of the Jewish people who were being systematically slaughtered.

Now, in 2023, things should be different. We should have learned what happens when people of principle refuse to speak out in the face of evil. We should refuse to forget the regret so many felt when the true horrors of the Holocaust became clear to the world.

It has been particularly disturbing to see the large demonstrations in Europe in favor of Hamas and its brutal attacks. For instance, on Oct. 21 police estimated 100,000 people participated in a “pro-Palestine” rally in London. The next day in London, 20,000 participated in a public vigil for the hostages.

Erika shared: “You know, it's time for Europe to speak up. That was the general idea spoken again and again. Blood was spilled on this soil, and much of the church didn't speak up, and they turned their eyes the other way. "

"And it's time for a different outcome, And that was actually a nice thing to hear, because I think it's important. It was important for the Jewish people to hear. There was a lot in the Jewish community that was there today. And it was nice for them to hear that," Erika told me.

"I actually spoke to a lady from Geneva, a Jewish woman from Geneva, and she said one of the speeches that moved her the most was a German man, that he was so strong, and he was so very clear about justice and injustice and speaking up about what’s evil and what’s good.”

Erika also said that she was surprised by how many people showed up (estimates say 1,200), given the fact that the Swiss pride themselves on being “neutral” in the world.

The United Nations Office at Geneva (Photo courtesy)

For Erika, it's hard to be outside of Israel while such suffering is happening. She closed with the thought that, in this regard, “Israel is a special country. You know once you’re part of it you'll always be part of it. And I feel like it's my family, you know, they're my family. Even though maybe I didn't even know any of the people who've been murdered or taken hostage. But they're my family.”

Lynn A. Rosenberg is a writer and Bible teacher with a Master’s degree in leadership and theology from Western Seminary. She is also the co-founder of The Joshua Fund. The wife of the founder of ALL ISRAEL NEWS, she and Joel are dual U.S.-Israeli citizens and live in Jerusalem.

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