British Religious Leaders Plead for Peace in Mideast

Canadian Bishops Also Issue Statement on Iraqi War

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LONDON, MARCH 25, 2003 ( Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders in Britain are emphasizing the importance of solidarity among various faith communities during wartime.

«We believe that it is vital, amid so much uncertainty and turmoil, to resist any attempt to drive our communities apart,» they said in a joint statement.

The statement, issued Friday, included signatures from Rowan Williams, Anglican archbishop of Canterbury; Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, archbishop of Westminster; and Sheikh Zaki Badawi, chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams in the United Kingdom.

It recognized Great Britain’s commitment to «build a society in which different faith communities can flourish side by side in mutual respect and harmony. We urge all communities to maintain their commitment to this goal, at a time when it may come under strain.»

In an effort to affirm their common religious ground and shared values, they stated that the war in Iraq is «a conflict neither about religion nor between religions. We completely reject any attempt to misrepresent it in this way.»

In addition, they exhorted political and military leaders to respect the Geneva Convention and protocols regarding the rules of conduct in war, and emphasized the importance of prayer so that a lasting peace in the Middle East «may follow swiftly in the footsteps of war."

Meanwhile, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued its own statement on the Iraqi conflict.

The bishops, including Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, archbishop of Toronto, and Archbishop Marc Ouellet of Quebec, the primate of Canada, prayed «that this new war end quickly, and that the innocent be spared from its most devastating effects.»

They also supported the Canadian government’s lack of involvement in the current conflict and hailed its role in «every undertaking toward international solidarity and enduring peace in our world.»

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