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Joint Statement by Religious Leaders on conflict with Iraq

Friday 21st March 2003

The onset of conflict in the Second Gulf War brought together religious leaders on the steps of Lambeth Palace to issue a joint statement.

"We have gathered against the backdrop of military action in Iraq involving British forces. They, their families and everyone caught up in this conflict are in our thoughts and prayers—especially those whose lives or loved ones have been lost.

As religious leaders from several faiths, we are here to signal the common ground on which we stand and to reaffirm the values we share at this time of tension, conflict and discord.

We pray that almighty God will grant wisdom, judgement and compassion to the political and military leaders who carry the immense burden of responsibility for the way this war is prosecuted.

Respect for every human being in times of armed conflict, as set out in the Geneva conventions and protocols, must be guaranteed on all sides. The rights and needs of civilians innocently affected by the conflict must be fully protected.

This is a conflict neither about religion nor between religions. We completely reject any attempt to misrepresent it in this way. As Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders in this country, we believe that it is vital, amid so much uncertainty and turmoil, to resist any attempt to drive our communities apart.

We commend the continuing efforts being made in Britain to build a society in which different faith communities can flourish side-by-side in mutual respect and harmony.

We urge all communities to maintain their commitment to this goal, at a time when it may come under strain. We commit ourselves fully to strive to that end, for the sake of our shared well-being and as a mark of our commitment to a more harmonious, less conflict-ridden world.

Although, sadly, the diplomatic road is currently blocked, military action can only be a limited means to an end. We pray that early efforts to achieve a just, lasting and secure peace both in Iraq and throughout the Middle East may follow swiftly in the footsteps of war. We urge those with the power to help make real this vision, to remain true, amid the clamour of conflict, to that noble and vital purpose.

It is a vision which we commend in the confident belief that by so doing we are acting in the true interests of our God given humanity."

This joint statement has been issued by:
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor
The Free Churches Moderator, Revd David Coffey
The Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks
Chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams UK, Shaikh Dr Zaki Badawi
Co-President of Churches Together in England, Revd Esme Beswick

Other leaders also signified their desire to be in association with the Statement.

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