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the Message Continues ... 9/93


Newsletter for May 2009

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Interview with Archbishop of Canterbury, UK
--Archbishop welcomes Muslims raising profile of religion in society

(The Archbishop spoke in an exclusive interview with the Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi. The interview 
focused largely on the general lack of ethical principles in today’s secular society, emphasizing the need to 
re-discover the “sense of being responsible to each other and for each other”).

The Archbishop of Canterbury has praised Muslims for raising the profile of religion and ethical challenges in society. “I think Islam has made a very significant contribution to getting a debate about religion into public life,” Dr Rowan Williams said. “And I think it’s very right that we should have these debates and discussions between Muslims and Christians and others in public,” he said.

The Archbishop was speaking in an exclusive interview with the Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi. The interview focused largely on the general lack of ethical principles in today’s secular society, emphasizing the need to re-discover the “sense of responsible to each other and for each other.”

“The idea that what’s good for me and what’s good for you belongs together. Both Muslims and Christians have a very strong sense of God’s will being done in community, when we really follow the needs of the community and work for one another on that in the will of God.”

On the current economic crisis, Dr Williams said it was due to a number of factors and that he did not want to pin the blame on the bankers. “I would blame all of us for having repeatedly voted for governments since the 1980’s that have pushed for growth that doesn’t always deal with poverty,” he said. “If I want to narrow it down, one of the problems in the last round of crisis is that we have lost any sense of trust and relationship and transactions of financial speculators in recent years have gone so far away from any face to face relationships, any real calculation of whether somebody is credit worthy that they have become abstract. So that sense of personal responsibility to one another has been lost, and behind that is the sense of personal responsibility to God that has been lost.”

Questioned on whether it was because of the kind of society we live in the sense that there is no faith in the public domain, the Archbishop said that at the heart of it, society had “lost the idea that it’s essential to human beings to have some relationship to God.”

“We can’t really be human unless we have some sort of relationship with God. And in so much of our culture that’s just not there these days, so we do pay the price for it,” he said.

With regard to Muslims being put down for bringing up faith issues into the public domain, the Archbishop said it also happened to Christians. “What we all want to say is that faith is not just what you and I think in our heads, it’s also about the relations we have in society and what we hope for in society. If we are not allowed as religious people to talk and argue about these issues in public then I think society has become a rather unfriendly place for religious people and that’s not helpful change,” he said.

He criticised the policies of those political leaders in the West who are practicing Christians who failed to bring about the change. They were unable to “turn around our society which was being driven by materialism” and hoped “to see leaders listening specifically to the more ethical challenges that faith brings.”

Dr Williams acknowledged that the Christian Muslim Forum does not reach the grassroots. “The conversation of the elite and intellectuals isn’t in itself going to change anything. We’ve got to deal with it and complicated questions, but we have to make good neighbors,” he said. But he believed grassroots tensions between Muslims and Christians in this country is “often exaggerated by politicians and others.” “Keep the presence of religion in our educational institutions and I think there is a lot that can be done there,” he said.

Asked about the lack of condemnation of Israel for its latest slaughter of Palestinians from Christian and Jewish leaders, Dr Williams said that it is “always illegal” to kill civilians. “I think Christian leaders and indeed Jewish leaders were prepared to say in December and January that killing of civilians was not a good thing. I don’t think anyone in religious groups defended that,” he said. His own position was that he made a statement in which he “condemned all loss of innocent lives in Gaza and in Israel.” On this, he acknowledged that that he was sure there was an imbalance, given the number of Palestinians killed by Israel. But he said that the “willingness of faith leaders in this country to work together to provide assistance to Gaza, was a very important factor there.”

With regard to the recent decision by the Church of England to diversify its investment in Caterpillar, which supplies bulldozers to Israel to destroy Palestinian homes, the Archbishop said the question had been “is this company producing material that is being used in an unjust way.”

courtesy: The Muslim News, UK.
March 27, 2009 issue





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