UPDATE: This article has been edited from the original version, which was posted today (March 28) at 9:52 p.m. See corrections at the bottom of the article.
By Mitzpeh Staff
A Colombian Jewish news anchor for Channel 1 in Colombia, was forced to resign after refusing to cross herself while on air. Yamid Amat, newscast director of the CM& broadcast network, asked Cathy Bekerman to cross herself earlier this month.
“He told me to cross myself, I did not do it and he asked me to resign at that moment, to which I did not agree,” Bekerman said to Colombian media.
The case became popular after Jewish radio journalist Azury Chamah, tweeted about it.
However, this should have never been an issue in the first place. The 2015 Colombia International Religious Freedom Report states, “The constitution provides for freedom of religion and the right to profess one’s religious beliefs. It prohibits discrimination based on religion.”
Since Colombia allows freedom of religion, it’s absurd that Amat found Bekerman’s refusal to cross herself so unbearable to deal with that he wanted Bekerman to resign from her position. As a Jewish woman, Bekerman’s religion and decision to not cross herself should be respected.
The Confederation of Jewish Communities of Coloumbia released a statement calling for Amat to publicly apologize for his “discriminatory and violative behavior of freedom of religion guaranteed in the Colombian Constitution.” The apology serves right but hopefully Amat truly understands the nature of how offensive he was towards Bekerman.
Amat did publish an apology on Channel 1’s website, explaining that he instructed Bekerman to cross herself in order to “accentuate a piece of news that was not about religious beliefs” and “because I feel that I affected her religious convictions without that being my purpose, I offer her a public apology.” If the piece of news wasn’t about religious beliefs, Bekerman shouldn’t have been doing anything religious in the first place. Amat should have consulted with Berkerman about her religious beliefs before hand.
Though Chamah tweeted that Bekerman has accepted this apology and is ready to return to television, this incident should not be forgotten. No one, regardless of their religion, should ever have to do something that symbolizes another religion, especially if uncomfortable with doing so. Additionally, no one put in this position should ever have to choose between symbolizing a religion that is not their own and being forced to resign.
Israel’s ambassador to Colombia, Marco Sermoneta, also weighed in on the issue, tweeting that this is a “serious anti-Semitic incident” and that “anti-Semitism is everybody’s problem.”
Anti-Semitism should never be tolerated. Amat should have received some type of repercussion against his actions toward Bekerman, especially since by law, Coloumbia is a democratic country that allows any expression of any religion.
Colombia is no stranger to anti-Semitism and has historically not been an Israeli supporter. In the country, though the church was officially separated from their government in 1991, Colombia’s society and government remains mostly Catholic. Additionally, Jews in Colombia are mostly upper-middle class, while the average person living in Colombia is much poorer, which “largely breeds anti-Semitism.”
The website reports that over 20 Jews have been kidnapped in the past two decades.
In the future we hope that, not only in Colombia but all over the world, religious views are taken into consideration. If someone refuses to do an act of another religion, one must respect their choice instead of judging the individual.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misspelled Colombia. Some further edits were made.