Faith Leaders Promote Peace

The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams is to join Christian and Muslim scholars for the start of a conference aimed at promoting understanding between the two faiths.

Dr Williams and the Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Gomaa will be among those addressing A Common Word, a conference at Cambridge University involving academics from around the world.

The event coincides with the first anniversary of the publication of A Common Word Between Us and You, a letter from 138 Islamic scholars, clerics and intellectuals.

Addressed to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders, the letter warned that the survival of the world could be at stake if Muslims and Christians could not make peace with each other.

“If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world – with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before – no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants.

“Our common future is at stake,” the letter said. “The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake.”

The scholars also used quotations from the Bible and the Koran to illustrate similarities between the two faiths, such as the requirement to worship one God and to love one’s neighbour.

In a letter of response published earlier this year, Dr Williams welcomed the document as a “significant development” in relations between Christians and Muslims.

The organisers of the conference said it would examine practical and “ground-breaking” steps that the two religious faiths could take to ensure they deepen mutual understanding, action and friendship.

The event comes after Dr Williams was heavily criticised earlier this year following a BBC interview in which he suggested that the adoption of some aspects of Islamic sharia law in the UK seemed “unavoidable”.