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Last Updated:  Monday, 7 April, 2003, 21:52 GMT 22:52 UK
Christian-Muslim ties 'needed'
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, (left), and the Archbishop of Canterbury
Dr Rowan Williams: We have much to learn from each other
The Iraq conflict has added urgency to the need of greater understanding between Christians and Muslims, according to the head of the Church of England.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, was speaking at a Christian-Muslim summit in Doha, Qatar on Monday.

He is attending a three-day seminar hosted by the Amir of Qatar, His Highness Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

Dr Williams told the opening session of a seminar for Muslim and Christian scholars that they were there to discover more about how each community believed it must listen to God.

"It is a significant meeting not primarily because it coincides with a time of such conflict and anxiety but because it highlights again a deeper and abiding need - a need which the run-up to this present conflict has made all the more urgent," he said.

"Listening to God and listening to one another as nations, cultures and faiths have not always had the priority they so desperately need."

Continuing process

Other delegates from the UK include the chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams, Dr Zaki Badawi, and the Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali.

You stand in a long and honourable tradition of Christians bearing witness to the love of Christ in hard and dangerous places
Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

Lambeth Palace said the conference was planned well in advance of the war and was part of a "continuing process" of engagement between Christian and Muslim scholars.

Before leaving for Qatar Dr Williams said: "Christians and Muslims have much to learn from each other, and much to share, despite all the differences we acknowledge.

"A meeting such as this is a clear demonstration that we do not have to be imprisoned in mutual hostility and misunderstanding," he said.

A leading evangelical group in the Church of England, the Church Society, urged Dr Williams not to "blur the differences" between Muslims and Christians in attempts to reach agreements.

But Paul Handley, editor of the Church Times, said the meeting was a good idea.

"It does make a difference when there are political problems and a religious leader can cut across the political lines of communication and talk directly to somebody else."

Christianity and Islam spring from the same root and doctrinally have a deep kinship

He said it was a tense time between some Christians and some Muslims, with the war in Iraq only adding to the problem.

Dr Williams has spoken out against the war, but he has also written to military chaplains serving in the Gulf giving his support.

He told them: "You stand in a long and honourable tradition of Christians bearing witness to the love of Christ in hard and dangerous places".

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