The Vilnius city Mayor Mr. Remigijus Šimašius has traditionally supported the preservation of Jewish culture and religious rights. The mayor’s stance comes at an important time in Lithuania’s development.

Several years ago, the government conceived a plan to construct a conference centre on the grounds of a Jewish cemetery in Shnipishok, Vilnius. The proposal was intended to be an opportunity to stimulate the tourist industry and bring conference events to Lithuania. However, bad planning and the fact that the proposed conference centre would desecrate the cemetery grounds, infuriated Jewish communities across the globe.

More recently, Dr Mathew Anthony Harper a journalist who represents Christian Networks has called for Christian Evangelicals to boycott tourism in Lithuania, if the proposal for the conference centre goes ahead. His SOS has been met with broad support. Evangelicals in the world are represented by about 1 billion, by todays estimations.

In a poll conducted by CBD News Agency, most Lithuanians disagreed with the construction of a conference centre on a Jewish cemetery. Further, a panel of experts has unanimously ruled that the construction of a conference centre on a cemetery constitutes desecration and is in violation of the Geneva Convention and EU Charter of Human Rights.

In a bold and clear statement, the White House slammed the proposed construction of the cemetery in Vilnius. Counsel for the President, KellyAnne Conway confirmed in an interview that President Donald Trump is “appalled by the desecration.”

Separately in a video, the Mayor of Vilnius, Mr. Remigijus Šimašius confirmed the importance of protecting Jewish culture, heritage and cemeteries. “Vilnius is the cradle of Jewish culture,” he stated. The mayor went on to emphasize the important contribution which the Jewish community had made to the city. Clearly, Mayor Remigijus Šimašius finds value in the need to protect that Jewish heritage.

Given the likelihood that efforts to reignite the plan for the construction of a conference centre may lead to a widespread boycott, the loss of jobs in Lithuania and the saga becoming a political hot potato, decision-makers who have Lithuania’s best interest at heart, are unlikely to support the proposal.


Barry Jenkins
Human Right’s Watch (Europe)


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