Page 1, 12th October 2001

12th October 2001
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Page 1, 12th October 2001 — Religious leaders back Blair over war on terror
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Religious leaders back Blair over war on terror

BY SIMON CALDWELL

BliDAIN's religious leaders have united behind the country's leaders in the war against terrorism.

Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool, reptesenting Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor. joined 20 other leaders in a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair at Downing Street, London, on Monday.

Afterwards. the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey. read a statement agreed by the delegation, which included four Muslims as well as the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks.

Dr Carey said that "the great evil" of terrorism must be lOught.

"I believe I speak for every one of us when I say we are called by God to resist evil, to pursue justice for all and to seek to live in peace and harmony with our neighbour," he said "We pray that those who hear the heavy responsibility of the leadership of nations will seek to pursue these noble goals. with compassion, mercy and maximum respect lir hutment lives."

The meeting was called by Mr Blair just days before Britain joined the United States in military action last weekend against terrorists held responsible for attacks on September 11 which claimed more than 6,000 lives, Archbishop Kelly, the vice president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Erighual and Wales, said afterwards he was "encouraged and hetutened" by the meeting.

He said there must be "unqualified condemnation" of the tenor attacks last month hut added: "I am gnaeful that many people have clearly stated that Islam is not our enemy."

Ile said: "While we all struggle with the character of these unprecedented events, it remains true that legality. restraint and pmportionality are obligations in any military action.

"Indeed the criminals responsible fir the atrocities in the US need to face justice, But the means taken to achieve this must always be bound by international law and a recognition that to let others inhumanity diminish our own would only grant terrorism u victory.

"The Prime Minister has said that military action shall be focused and targeted. For this undertaking to be secured. there must be clarity about the objectives of military action, so that it can he ended as soon as possible.

"As he said in his Labour Party Conference speech last week, this struggle against terrorism means not only an attempt to punish the guilty, but also to help to bring 'democracy and freedom to people around the world', "We need to develop not only international cooperation but almo to strengthen the global community through long term measures — economic and political — to challenge injustice and poverty."

In a separate statement, Archbi shop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham appealed for Catholics to respond to the crisis through prnyer.

He said: "Please pray with Inc for all who are directly engaged in this armed conflict. Pray that in moments of danger they are consoled by a sense of God's presence; in pain, by God's comfort; and in fear or terror. by God's protection.

"But please pray, most of all that this military action may come to a just and swift ending."

Cafod, the official aid agency of the bishops of England and Wales, warned that the launching of air strikes while Afghanistan's borders were still closed would leave refugees without access to aid.

"International humanitarian law obliges those who take military action to make sure that civilians will have access to humanitarian aid," it said.

The Vatican, locked in the middle of a Synod of Bishops, gave a measured response to the bombing of Afghanistan.

On Monday morning, almost all of' the 18 addresses at the synod referred to the bomb attacks. The Bishop of Islamabad, however, had been kneed to rush home, "on amount of the situation".

But while individual bishops spoke within the Synod of the situation, by Tuesday the press office of the Holy See had still issued no public comment, and had no immediate plans to do so.

American bishops publicly commented, however, that while military intervention was "always deplorable", it could be "necessary to protect innocent lives. or to defend the common good".

In a statement signed by Bishop Joseph Fiorenza, the president of the US bishops' confetence, the bishops called for a "global coalition" for a correct response to the acts of terror in America.

This, they said, should combine "diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian means, together with legitimate military ones".

The bishops stressed that what was under way was not an attack "against the Afghan people or Islam", but at the same time called for measures to be taken to ensure the "safety of innocent lives", Meanwhile. Christians in Pakistan were bracing themselves for revenge attacks following the gnat of the bombing campaign.

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanhit of Lahore, chairman of the Pakistani bishops' justice and peace commission, said he had warned Catholics to "be vigilant in what they say and do".

"We must act and speak in peaceful and cautious ways. We are in the minority here, so our safety is always a concern," he said.

The only public criticism of the air strikes within the Catholic Church was made by two officials of the Latin-rite Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

"I think the attack was too quick," said Fr Majdi

legal director or the patriarchate. "I really feel sad for the Afghan people who barely even have anything to eat. I hope this does not harm them any more than they already are hurt,"

Fr al-Siryani. from the West Bank town of Ben Sahour, said his main fear wris that Christians could be targeted in the wake of the attacks.

Fr Rued Abusahlia, chancellor of the patriarchate, said he would advise the Anierican people to listen to Ostana biii Liakifs videotaped message to understand why the United States had been targeted.

"The attack will be useless and will only create more confusion in the world," Fr Abusahliu said on Monday. "It won't resolve the issue of terrorism it will only cause more hatted and will give mote pretexts to Muslim extremists.

"II' they want to resolve the issue of terrorism, they have to go to the deep causes of this. America needs to ask why it is hated all over the world," he said.

Additional reporting: Bruce Johnston in Rome and Luke Coppen.

Editorial comment — p7




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