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Religions meet to 'build bridges'

Carey is the spiritual leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans  

LONDON, England -- Muslim and Christian scholars discussing how the two faiths can forge better understanding and tolerance of each other in this "tortured and unstable world."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed the two day-long conference starting on Thursday and chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey.

The meeting, at the archbishop's official London residence Lambeth Palace, is an attempt to bring the two religions closer especially amid the impact of September 11.

About 40 scholars from around the world including the United States, the UK, North and West Africa and the Middle East will be at the meeting, "Building Bridges - Overcoming Obstacles in Muslim-Christian Relations."

Blair said: "It is knowledge and understanding that brings people together rather than sets them apart -- that is why the dialogue that we are having today is so important."

"Religious values can be warped or perverted but when people are true to its real value religious faith can be immensely liberating."

Listening was the leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Prince Hassan of Jordan and the Church of England Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali.

Carey, spiritual leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans, said in the run-up to the conference: "I am confident that we will have a serious, honest and in-depth dialogue on some fundamental issues, from which we can all learn and benefit.

"We hope as a result to develop and share new insights and understanding about the history and development of our two great faiths and their place in the modern world."

He added: "It is to build and strengthen relationships between Christians and Muslims and since September 11 has taken on a new urgency."

He told BBC radio: "Both faiths have great strengths, we must listen to each other."

He suggested Christians could learn about the Muslim faith by reading the Koran while Muslims should read the Bible. The event comes after it was announced that Carey is to sign an agreement with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar al-Sharif University in Cairo, Egypt, Dr Mohamed Sayed Tantawy, at a ceremony in Lambeth Palace on January 30.

The signing will put in place arrangements for a programme of dialogue between Anglicans and Sunni Muslims.


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