Anglican-Muslim talks ignore war

Published June 1, 2003

The Archbishop of Canterbury was criticized for not meeting with military chaplains or troops in the Iraqi conflict even though he was holding theological dialogues with Muslims at Qatar where Allied Command was headquartered in early April at the height of hostilities.

Only Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of the diocese of Rochester planned to visit British soldiers after the conference, according to a report in the Church of England Newspaper.

The report said “don’t mention the war” was a silent edict at the Building Bridges dialogue led by both Archbishop Williams and the Emir of Qatar, although both men alluded to it in opening remarks.

Archbishop Williams said that the groups were meeting to discover more about “how each community believes it must listen to God. It is a significant meeting not primarily because it coincides with a time of such conflict and anxiety but because it highlights again a deeper and abiding need – a need which the run-up to this present conflict has make all the more urgent.”

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, said the gathering was taking place during a war which religious leaders of both faiths had sought to avert. Circumstances of the war, he added, gave depth and meaning to the seminar as a forum committed to peace and to reviving the values of both Christianity and Islam.

Sheikh al-Thani identified two major problems as the political manipulation of believers and the tendency of the two sides to judge each other on the behaviour and actions of a minority of extremists.

The U.K. delegation to the conference included Bishop Nazir-Ali, future Bishop of Durham Canon Tom Wright, and Dr. Zaki Badawi, head of the British Council of Imams and Mosques.


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