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Last Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006, 03:53 GMT
Rabbi calls for 'UN of religions'
By Danny Wood
BBC News, Seville

Yona Metzger
Metzger spoke at the opening of the three-day conference
The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, has called for the creation of a world body with representatives from the major religious groups.

Rabbi Metzger was addressing the International Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace in Seville, Spain.

He called for the formation of a "United Nations of religious groups".

The Imam of Gaza, Imad al-Faluji, said politicians lied but religious leaders had a different objective - to work towards a higher good.

The imams and rabbis at this conference, which opened on Sunday, say the world is in crisis and it is time they acted to restore justice, respect and peace.

Straight talking

The delegates have made it very clear that now is the time for concrete initiatives.

At the opening ceremony Rabbi Yona Metzger said his idea of a "United Nations of religious groups" could "bring a bridge between religions to help the bridge of the diplomatic way".

That plan has broad support from key participants like Frederico Major, the co-president of the Alliance for Civilisations, the lobby group for international conflict resolution, supported by the United Nations and initiated by Spain's Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

The speeches at this conference rather than using polite, diplomatic language have at times been brutally direct. When the Rabbi Metzger harangued mainstream Muslims for not standing up to Osama bin Laden, Islamic leaders nodded in agreement.

Both Muslim and Jewish leaders have shown a preparedness to take criticism.

There have also been strong expressions of opposition to any killing in the name of religion.

At the end of the opening ceremony, the Muslim delegation sang an oration to the Prophet Mohammed before resuming discussions about the ideas they plan to present to their Jewish counterparts.

The religious leaders have three days to come up with a manifesto that aims to convert their words into actions.



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