Archbishop Eyes Interfaith Peace

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that Christians and Muslims faced an “extensive and demanding” agenda as they searched for peace and understanding.

But Dr Rowan Williams said there was “good reason” to think that difficulties could be overcome.

He was speaking to Christian and Muslim scholars at a conference set up to promote understanding between the two faiths.

The Archbishop made no mention of the 9/11 or 7/7 terrorist atrocities or of the invasion of Iraq or the war in Afghanistan.

He identified common aims in each religion but said there remained “much work to do”. “If we say that love of God and neighbour represents an area in which we can talk to each other in a way that points to at least some common goals, what we are saying by implication is that we are able to recognise some common marks of holy or reconciled human lives in each other,” he told the conference in Cambridge.

He added: “The God we speak about is a God whose presence and action generate care for the poor, mercy, fidelity, and the willingness to make and preserve peace among human beings.”

Dr Williams said: “Neither the Muslim nor the Christian will fully recognise their own story in the way that the other faith tells it, and this sets a difficult and important agenda for dialogue.”

He added: “Ahead of us lies a very extensive and demanding agenda, both intellectual and practical – not to say political – but we have good reason to think that it can be addressed with hope.”

A year ago 138 Islamic scholars, clerics and intellectuals wrote to the Pope and other Christian leaders warning that the survival of the world could be at stake if Muslims and Christians could not make peace with each other. The scholars used quotations from the Bible and the Koran to illustrate similarities between the two faiths.

Earlier this year, Dr Williams, who welcomed the letter, was heavily criticised after suggesting that the adoption of some aspects of Islamic sharia law in the UK seemed “unavoidable”.