Britain's religious leaders met at Lambeth Palace yesterday in a show of unity and pledged to defend the country's multicultural society against the evil of terrorism.
Speaking after Thursday's bomb attacks, Christian, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim figureheads stood side by side at the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
The first words from the joint statement were read by the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Sir Jonathan Sacks, who said that they began by remembering those who had sacrificed themselves in the victory over Nazism.
But 60 years later Britain faced another evil, the indiscriminate murder of innocent people by terrorists.
Sheikh Dr Zaki Badawi, chair of the Council of Mosques and Imams, said: "We stand together now for a further purpose: to express our shared commitment to resisting and overcoming the evil of terrorism, which the events of recent days here in London have brought home to us afresh and with such devastating clarity.
"It is an evil that cannot be justified and that we utterly condemn and reject."
Badawi said that people who claim that they carry out such atrocities in the name of Islam were acting "totally contrary to Islam".
To combat such a perverse understand of Islam he committed the Council of Mosques and Imams to taking a "proactive" approach in the re-education of misguided Muslims.
"We will go to these groups with good scholars to explain to them the true nature of Islam and to argue to them about the theological basis for their hatred and anger.
"We will point out to them that there is always hope to remove the cause of their anger. They should never despair."
Williams said that members of all faith groups in Britain shared the worries of Muslims about reprisal attacks.
He said: "We commend and embrace the continuing efforts to build a Britain in which different communities including faith communities can flourish side by side on the basis of mutual respect and understanding.
"We pledge ourselves to remain true to this goal in word and deed and to work together to make of it an enduring reality."
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, said the group wanted to reaffirm their values at this time of sorrow and pain. In his Sunday message at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI told the bombers to "stop in the name of God", calling for prayers for the attackers as well as the victims and their families.
A gathering of faith
The five faith leaders in attendance yesterday were the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Free Churches Moderator, Dr David Coffey, The Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Sir Jonathan Sacks, and the Chair of the Council of Mosques and Imams, Sheikh Dr Zaki Badawi.
- INDEPENDENTBy Robert Verkaik