By Pieter Muller
Already crippled by coronavirus and the hiatus which has blindsided the tourist industry, the Lithuanian economy is tragically scheduled for another setback, writes Pieter Muller. At the heart of the complication is an ill-conceived plan by the Lithuanian government to construct a conference centre, on the grounds of an Old Jewish cemetery in Vilnius (Shnipishok), Lithuania.
The proposal has been opposed by international leaders and religious representatives of all faiths. More recently, Evangelical Christians have denounced the government proposal arguing that the construction of the conference centre is a clear desecration of the cemetery and dishonorable to the deceased who are buried on the plot.
Dr. Mathew Anthony Harper, a talk show host host on a Christian radio network which has over 20 million listeners stated that evangelical Christians will boycott tourism in Lithuania, if plans to construct the conference centre are not cancelled. According to a 2016 count, evangelicals are represented by approximately 619 million members.
The old Jewish cemetery in Shnipishok was the first Jewish cemetery established in Vilna. It is also the final resting place of tens of thousands of Jewish scholars. Accordingly, the international Jewish community have rallied to oppose the construction of the conference centre.
The impact of the government’s decision to proceed with the development of the conference centre means that thousands of jobs in the tourist sector in Lithuania will be lost. Additionally, EU politicians have expressed concern that the government is fanning anti-semitic sentiments, in violation of the European Union Charter of Human Rights.
Pieter Muller is a freelance blogger who regularly contributes to publications sponsored by Human Rights Monitor, Amnesty International and Huffington Post.