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Monday, 8 October, 2001, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
War 'not a religious conflict'
Dr George Carey (second left) with other religious leaders
Dr George Carey has appealed for calm
The Archbishop of Canterbury has insisted the war on terror is not "a confrontation between religions".

Dr George Carey spoke out following a multi-faith meeting with the prime minister at Downing Street.

He urged people to stay calm, and said the war must not be used as an excuse for aggression towards any religious community.

Before the meeting, the Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sachs, gave his full backing to the military action, saying it had been "deliberate, carefully planned and precise".

Current divisions must not be used here as a pretext or an excuse for hostility and aggression towards any individual community on the basis of religious adherence

Dr George Carey,
Archbishop of Canterbury

Officials insisted that Monday's meeting, also attended by representatives of the Muslim, Hindu and Sikh faiths, was not held in immediate response to the attacks on Afghanistan, but had been previously planned.

Dr Carey said the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, had been "excellent" and had enabled leaders from various religious groups to share their ideas at a "challenging and unsettling" time.

"We are resolved to nurture what we have in common and the values and standards we share," he said.

"Current divisions must not be used here as a pretext or an excuse for hostility and aggression towards any individual community on the basis of religious adherence.

Muslim reservations

"At a time when emotions are running high and anxieties and fears abound, it's vital that we continue to build bridges not walls, to make friends, not scapegoats."

Prof Bharadwaj, representing the Hindu community, said the attacks were "desirable".

"It's obvious because so many people have been killed [in the attacks in the US]," he said.

Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sachs
Chief Rabbi Dr Sachs: Full backing for action
But Yousuf Bhailok, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said he had "serious reservations", arguing that diplomatic means had yet to be exhausted.

Asked to elaborate on his concerns, he said: "The consequences of war. One does not realise where things lead to.

"There ought to be further diplomatic moves to actually try and resolve the situation.

"The Afghan people have already suffered as we know, and further, do we want the memorial for the people who died to be further loss of civilian lives?

Prayers for military

"We have our reservations in the strongest terms against the war at this stage."

Dr Carey said that prayers would be said for members of the armed forces and their families, and all those who may be innocently at risk.

A Downing Street spokeswoman later described the meeting as "very useful".

She said: "All the guests spoke and expressed support for the government's stance.

"The prime minister was keen to be able to discuss the current situation and listen to the views of these representatives of Britain's faith communities.

"The prime minister repeated this was a war against terrorism and not Islam and it should not be used by extremists to damage the very good community relations we have in this country.

"This was shared by all in the meeting who will work to get the message across."

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War view



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