It is particularly appropriate that Bishops should decide to set up a Secretariat for Relations with Jews. It is to be hoped that they will use their authority to assist in the campaign for Soviet Jewry. Many people may think that conditions for jews in the Soviet Union will have improved following the Helsinki Agreement. This is not so and in some ways the Helsinki Agreement has made their situation worse.
Although the Agreement provided for the freedom to leave a country, quite legitimately, the right was circumscribed for such reasons as security, social obligations and family dependency. The Soviet authorities have been interpreting these exceptions very restrictively and the rate of Jewish emigration has dropped very considerably since Helsinki. The forthcoming conference in Belgrade — the follow up to Helsinki has as one of its purposes, as provided in the Helsinki agreement, to review the operation of that agreement. The Soviet Government with their Eastern Bloc allies, are suggesting that the review should be quietly dropped and that it would be more constructive to look forward to the future.
Some of the Western Governments may he tempted to agree with this as no govirnment has an impeccable record on Human Rights. It is however important that the operation of the agreement is reviewed — not in order to berate the Soviet Government for its past actions but so that the Western countries can encourage the Soviet Government to honour the spirit of the agreement. It is important that the British Government stands firm in insisting on a review. The new Foreign Secretary's early declaration of a commitment to human rights is encouraging but he needs the support of the people of this country. Please write to him and to your own Members of Parliament asking them to support the Foreign Secretary in insisting on the review of Helsinki at Belgrade.
Charles Perryman Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, Sheffield.