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Friday, 25 October, 2002, 04:05 GMT 05:05 UK
Religious leaders push Mid-East peace
Dr George Carey (centre) with Sheikh Tal el-Sider (left), and Rabbi Michael Melchior
Put faith in our faiths, says George Carey (centre)

Leaders of the three main religions in the disputed Holy Land will on Friday begin a second day of talks in London to try to provide new impetus to the Middle East peace process.

Already, they have made an impassioned plea for closer inter-faith dialogue to address the religious roots of much of the tension.

The call follows an unprecedented meeting in Egypt at which leaders of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities pledged to promote better understanding of their beliefs and called for a religiously sanctioned ceasefire on all sides.


From the strength of our religions violence must end, institutional violence as well as suicide bombers - we are saying no to it

George Carey, Archbishop of Canterbury

It is easy to scoff at such gatherings.

Sceptics dismiss them as a talking shop for platitudes far removed from the unholy reality of life in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

But the host of the London talks - the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey - was passionate in his defence of the role men and women of faith could play in promoting dialogue.

''We are not doing what the politicians should be doing,'' he said. ''We're doing what religious leaders should do.

''We are contributing from the wealth of our faiths that peace in religion is essential if we're going to bring peace to the Middle East. From the strength of our religions violence must end; institutional violence as well as suicide bombers. We are saying no to it.''

'Desecration'

Sitting beside each other at the news conference at the end of the first day's talks were the Palestinian minister for religious dialogue, Sheikh Tal el-Sider, and the deputy Israeli foreign minister, Rabbi Michael Melchior.

Rabbi Melchior said there was no escaping the religious reality underpinning the conflict, but added: ''For the first time you have central religious leaders who are standing up and saying we are taking responsibility for changing this.''

At least 14 died in Monday's bus bombing in Hadera, northern Israel
Leaders have called for a religiously-sanctioned ceasefire

''Violence is not something we sanctify; it is a desecration of God's name.''

Delegates committed themselves to a 10-point action plan to build trust between their faiths.

It includes a promise to ''engage'' with those religious leaders who play a part in perpetuating violence.

It also plans to promote mutual tolerance and understanding in schools.

Much of the rest, though, looks suspiciously like a charter for endless discussion.

And there is the danger that for all the passionate commitment of the leaders themselves they could talk themselves out of any real relevance to the world in which their followers live and die.


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