Religious Declaration in Egypt Assails Killing of Innocents

At 3-Day Gathering Organized by Anglican Archbishop

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ALEXANDRIA, Egypt, JAN. 23, 2002 ( A dozen Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders issued a joint declaration here declaring the killing of innocents a desecration of God´s name and defamation of religion, the Jerusalem Post reported.

The three-day gathering, organized by Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, was billed by him and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Melchior, another driving force behind the conference, as historic.

The declaration, which Carey called the “First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land,” included a seven-point pledge by the leaders to use their “religious and moral authority to work for an end to the violence and the resumption of the peace process.”

The final draft of the declaration was sent to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat on Monday afternoon for his approval before the Palestinians in the delegation signed it.

Although representatives of the three religions signed the document, different clauses in it are open to different interpretations.

For instance, the first clause includes a sentence that reads: “The sanctity and integrity of the holy places must be preserved, and freedom of religious worship must be insured for all.”

When Sheikh Abdulsalam Abu-Shkhaidem, mufti of the Palestinian Police, was asked by the Jerusalem Post if this means Jews should be allowed access to the Temple Mount, he replied: “No, no, no. I am not going to pray in the church, I am not going to pray in the synagogue. That is what it means. I pray in my place, and they pray in their place. That means, Give me access to go to my mosque, and I am not stopping you from going to your church or synagogue.”

Reminded that Jews are being stopped from going to the Temple Mount, Shkhaidem said, “They have no right to go there, this is a mosque — the whole Temple Mount.”

Carey, at a press conference, said a permanent committee would be set up to work out questions such as those regarding the Temple Mount and the dispute over the construction of the mosque in Nazareth.

Carey sidestepped questions about the issues, saying it is first of all important not to “underestimate the significance of getting such a body together.” Second, he said, “We are starting out on the journey together. We don´t have to do everything in the first 36 hours.”

The Christian representatives included the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, and Anglican Bishop Riah Abu el-Assal of Jerusalem.

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