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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 August 2006, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Archbishop calls for Mideast deal
Dr John Sentamu next to his tent
The archbishop gave up his holiday to camp in York Minster

The Archbishop of York has said the Middle East conflict was a recruiting ground for "jihadists", as he ended a week-long peace vigil.

Dr John Sentamu said Middle East issues could no longer be left in the "pending tray of unresolved business".

"There is no greater recruiting sergeant for would-be jihadists than the current conflict in the Middle East," he said.

The Minister underwent a week-long vigil where he only drank water.

He also shaved his head and slept in a tent in York Minster. His stay attracted a large numbers of visitors.

Political sermon

Dr Sentamu, 57, criticised the British and US governments for not doing more to solve the problems in the region, which he said had been around longer than him.

The challenge of the international community is to make peace in the Middle East a priority for the sake of our souls
Dr John Sentamu

"The challenge of the international community is to make peace in the Middle East a priority for the sake of our souls and to sacrifice their own self-interest in the short term for the prize of sustainable peace," he said.

More than 1,000 Lebanese and more than 120 Israelis have been killed in the conflict since Hezbollah militants captured two Israeli soldiers on 12 July in a cross-border raid.

The BBC's religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said the Minister's speech was a "rebuke of the government" but it was also "couched in very deliberate equal treatment by both sides of this conflict."

He also said while Dr Sentamu's statement had broad support from the religious community, a small minority had opposed his stance.

Criticised

The Reverend Canon Doctor Alan Billings, Director of the Centre for Ethics and Religion at Lancaster University, suggested the Archbishop's vigil had become over-political.

"He has made a number of comments over the week about the war between Israel and the Lebanon. He's talked about the disproportionate response of Israel, for example...now I think that that was unwise, and at that point it became a political comment."

A ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel came into force on Monday.

But UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has expressed deep concern over an Israeli commando raid deep inside Lebanon on Saturday.




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