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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 11:16 GMT
Pope's peace conference: Church leaders
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The day of prayer in Assisi may be remembered as a key moment in the papacy of John Paul II.

While thoughts inevitably turn towards who will succeed him, the 81-year-old pontiff is determined to continue his quest for peace, despite his increasing frailty.

But while many religious leaders are supporting his initiative, what impact will their prayers have on people around the world?

Have the events of September 11 created an obstacle to a better understanding between Christians and Muslims?

Is there now a determination by people of many faiths to create a climate of religious tolerance?

The following church leaders answered your questions in a live forum from Assisi:

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster (Catholic)
Baba Darjit Singh, from Chicago, USA (Sikh)
Eugene Imai, from Pasadena, California (Shinto)


Highlights of the interview


Newshost:

E. McCann, Wolverhampton, UK: Has the world lost touch with God?


Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor:

Well I think my answer to that is - possibly - although of course God hasn't lost touch with the world. It is God's world and this is his creation and therefore I think many people, particularly at this time in their spiritual life, do look to God.


Newshost:

Daniel Story, London, UK: Shouldn't the believers of different faiths put more emphasis on the common ground we share, such as belief in one God and the prophets, as opposed to strenuously pointing out our differences?


Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor:

I think today is a good example of what unites us. In a sense we do have common values. We do worship the one God, we do have a desire for peace, for reconciliation, for a lack of violence and that we should live as brothers and sisters before one Father. Now that is a profound unity - it is not total unity and clearly there are serious differences between a Christian say and a Muslim or a Jew. But at the same time I think today's meeting wanted to assert something very profound - that the cause of conflict in the world is not in any way religion - some people say that. I think that true religion is something that enables peace and reconciliation.


Newshost:

The Pope was saying that religion shouldn't be used to justify violence.


Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor:

Exactly and the Pope, I think, is asserting something very profound. I think the world wants to hear that we do have to have a common aim which is in fact that there should be reconciliation amongst people and that we should all strive for peace.


Newshost:

Kathleen Gillen, Ireland: Do days like this day of peace have any real bearing on what is going on in the world or are they a well-meaning gesture with little effect?


Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor:

I think they're more than a well-meaning gesture - they're an invitation to everybody of good will that each one in his or her own way should strive for peace and I think everybody has a part to play.


Newshost:

Ed Turner, UK: Would you support any form of ecumenism and if so, what aspects of the Catholic faith would you be prepared to compromise on?


Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor:

With regard to my Catholic faith - it's not a question of compromising on anything - it's a question of understanding it more deeply and see what unites us deeply - certainly with other Christians - and also to a certain extent with other faiths - that's why we have dialogue with them. But at the end of the day, I think it's only by living one's own faith more deeply that one sees what can unite us with other people of other religions and of course particularly with fellow Christians.


Newshost:

Andrew Smith, Brussels, Belgium: While Christians worldwide should pray for peace, what's the best way of tackling the injustice and oppression that often leads to war?


Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor:

This is at the key of today, in a sense. It's not just the events of 11th September, it is also the injustice in the world. The misery that there is in poor countries and how can the rich countries help poor. In other words, how can there true justice in the world - and it's only when we get justice that we'll get peace.


Newshost:

Amanda Brown, Middletown, USA: Did you support the US bombing of Afghanistan as part of "war on terrorism" and do you object to the conditions under which the Afghan prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are being held?


Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor:

My agenda is a different one. My agenda is reconciliation, it's peace, it's not to answer questions of leadership because my agenda is different. They have their agenda - I think my agenda has something to say to their agenda.


Newshost:

We go now to Baba Darjit Singh who is here representing the Sikh faith from Chicago in the United States. We have an e-mail from E. McCann, Wolverhampton, UK: Has the world lost touch with God?


Baba Darjit Singh:

We believe in one God. We believe that God created everything in the world.


Newshost:

Amanda Brown, Middletown, USA: Did you support the US bombing of Afghanistan as part of "war on terrorism" and do you object to the conditions under which the Afghan prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are being held?


Baba Darjit Singh:

Yes I think what the US Government is right what they did in Afghanistan. The US Government is not against the Afghan people and not against Islam. But what they did over there was to finish international terrorism. They did very good.


Newshost:

What about the Taleban prisoners do you agree with the way in which they are being detained?


Baba Darjit Singh:

I think so. The US Government and all other people they should teach those people that what they did it was against humanity. They should teach the Taleban prisoners to become good men in the future.


Newshost:

We're joined now by Eugene Imai, who is representing the Shinto faith - originally from Japan but now living in Pasadena, California. Martin Adams, UK: What is the main purpose of religion? If you lead a "good" life and have a positive influence upon those you meet, does any "decent" God really care what faith you are?


Eugene Imai:

It doesn't matter what faith you are. It doesn't matter what you believe either unless you take action - we have to "walk the talk".


Newshost:

Amanda Brown, Middletown, USA: Did you support the US bombing of Afghanistan as part of the "war on terrorism" and do you object to the conditions under which the Afghan prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are being held?

What about the conflict in Afghanistan - did you agree with President Bush's actions?


Eugene Imai:

No I didn't. Basically I am against war - there is no war in justice and there is no just war. Retaliation doesn't work.


Newshost:

What about the Taleban prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay? Do you think that's right the conditions in which they are being held?


Eugene Imai:

From what I have heard, I don't agree. But I don't know much about their conditions now.


Newshost:

E McCann, Wolverhampton, UK: Has the world lost touch with God?


Eugene Imai:

I don't think so . These challenges create opportunity - the opportunity to find ourselves and to find our relationship with God. Today I'm more encouraged that we are working closer to each other. Yes, there is strong hatred but we can overcome this.

See also:

16 Jan 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Vatican
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