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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 December, 2003, 12:15 GMT
Archbishop calls for tolerance
Debt is the "dark side of Christmas", the archbishop warns
The Archbishop of Canterbury has appealed to the secular world to overcome its mistrust of religion.

In his Christmas sermon Dr Rowan Williams criticised France over plans to ban Muslim headscarves in schools.

He said the same suspicion of religion existed in the UK, where Tony Blair's beliefs were greeted with "sniggers".

Dr Williams said part of the reason lay in the misuse of faith for oppression and violence, as an alibi for atrocity.

The Archbishop called on Christians to show their faith was "on the side of humanity".

He said: "Discomfort about religion or about a particular religion may be the response of an educated liberal or, at the opposite extreme, the unthinking violence of an anti-Semite; it isn't easy to face the fact that sometimes the effects are similar for the believer."

Christians, Muslims, Jews and others [should] stand with each other and speak out for each other in times of stress or harassment
Dr Rowan Williams
The Archbishop said religious faith had too often become the "language of the powerful".

He said: "Historically, the answer is, alas, that religious faith has too often been the language of the powerful, the excuse for oppression, the alibi for atrocity.

"It has appeared as itself intolerant of difference (hence the legacy of anti-Semitism), as a campaigning, aggressive force for uniformity, as a self-defensive and often corrupt set of institutions indifferent to basic human welfare."

Dr Williams criticised those who carried out acts of terror in the name of religion, and called for multi-faith unity.

He said: "All our great religious traditions say something of this - which is one reason for Christians, Muslims, Jews and others to stand with each other and speak out for each other in times of stress or harassment."

The BBC's Lucy Atherton
"The Archbishop admitted religious faith had too often become the language of the powerful"

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