Civic leaders and representatives of faith groups came together for a service of reconciliation on January 29, remembering the expulsion of Jewish residents from High Wycombe in 1234 and anti-Jewish theology over many centuries.

The Rev Hugh Ellis, who conducted the service at All Saints Church High Wycombe, explains: “Henry III signed an order in 1234 requiring High Wycombe to expel its Jews. This civic occasion, titled ‘Changing the Future by Confronting our Past’, was dedicated to remembering the church’s sad history of anti-Semitism, confession for these past wrongs and reconciliation with representatives of today’s Jewish community. We also pledged to stand together against all forms of prejudice in this town.”

Statements were given by Dominic McDermott on the root of anti-Semitism, Dr James Patrick on its history from Luther to the Holocaust, Rabbi Janet Darley on anti-Semitism today, and Sheikh Dr Ramzy on Islamophobia today. Speakers also referred to more recent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur as well as prejudices against other minority groups.

Christians in the audience were invited to join in a declaration of repentance for past racial and religious hatred. Edwin Shuker from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, a former refugee from persecution, gave a moving response of gratitude.

Among the several hundred people present were representatives of Jewish, Muslim and Christian groups, as well Wycombe MP Steve Baker, Mayor of High Wycombe Cllr Mazamal Hussain, Prof Ruth Farwell a Deputy Lord Lieutenant and Julia Upton the High Sheriff.

Steve Baker MP stated before the event: “With concern about anti-Semitism and Islamophobia at high levels, I'm proud High Wycombe is coming together tonight at All Saints for a united Christian response to historic anti-Semitism in the Church and to oppose all forms of prejudice in our town, including Islamophobia.”

High Wycombe was one of the first towns required to expel its Jews, and this was repeated elsewhere before Edward I issued the Edict of Expulsion in 1290 expelling all Jews from England. The edict was only overturned when Oliver Cromwell permitted Jews to return to England in 1657.