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Last Updated: Monday, 19 September 2005, 04:31 GMT 05:31 UK
Bishops suggest apology for war
Church of England bishop
The bishops suggested the apology would be a public act
Church of England bishops have suggested Christian leaders apologise to Muslim leaders for the war in Iraq.

A report from a working group of bishops says the war was one of a "long litany of errors" relating to Iraq.

As the government is unlikely to offer an apology, a meeting of religious leaders would provide a "public act of institutional repentance", it said.

It urges a "truth and reconciliation" meeting, but acknowledges that arranging it could be difficult.

The report, entitled Countering Terrorism: Power, Violence and Democracy Post 9/11, was written by a working group of the Church of England's House of Bishops.

It suggests the meeting would be an opportunity to apologise for the way the West has contributed to the situation in Iraq, including the war.

Collusion

The Church of England has criticised the war, saying it was not a "just war".

But a dilemma now exists for those within the Church - to pull out of Iraq without a stable democracy in place would be irresponsible, but to stay suggests collusion with a "gravely mistaken" war, the bishops said.

A grieving Iraqi man
Leaving Iraq without stability would be irresponsible, the Church said

But if collusion was a necessary evil, the report says, there needs to be a degree of public recognition of the West's responsibility for the present situation.

"It might be possible for there to be a public gathering...at which Christian leaders meet with religious leaders of other, mainly Muslim, traditions, on the basis of truth and reconciliation, at which there would be a public recognition of at least some of the factors mentioned [in the report]."

US reasons

The report said errors in the West's handling of Iraq included support of Saddam Hussein over many years as a strategic ally against Iran, a willingness to sell him weapons and the suffering caused to the Iraqi people by sanctions.

It also says the war appeared to be "as much for reasons of American national interest as it was for the well-being of the Iraqi people".

The report said religious institutions had apologised for past injustices, including the Vatican's remorse over Christians' responsibility for the persecution of Jews.

"These indicate that it is possible for institutions to take responsibility for their corporate action in the past, not in order to make individual Christians today feel guilty, but as a mature, public act of institutional repentance," the report states.


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