Last update - 19:56 17/12/2008     
      Imams, rabbis pledge joint stands against terror  
      By Reuters  
      Tags: interfaith, Islam   

      An international group of imams and rabbis pledged at the end of a 
sometimes stormy conference on Wednesday to work together to denounce violence 
and terrorism and promote understanding between their two faiths. 

      The World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace, a private group set up 
in 2005, named a committee to issue joint responses to acts of terror by either 
side, as a sign that people of faith rejected such violence unconditionally. 

      The decision was warmly greeted by 85 delegates from Israel, the 
Palestinian territories, Arab states, Europe and North America even though they 
could not agree on a final resolution. 
      The final session of the three-day talks in Paris see-sawed between 
testimonies of friendship across faith lines and sharp partisan exchanges over 
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

      "We want to take back the word of God that extremists stole from us," 
Alain Michel, head of the Geneva-based association Hommes de Parole that 
organised the meeting, told journalists after announcing the plan for joint 
statements against violence. 

      "Now we will speak out, we will condemn violence and terrorism. We've 
finished letting the one or two percent of extremists claim to speak in our 
name and in the name of God." 

      The conference, attended by about 80 imams, rabbis and religious experts 
including Christians, was the latest in a growing number of interfaith meetings 
aiming to have moderate voices drown out radicals in the public sphere. 

      Also on Friday, Pope Benedict met members of the Libya-based World 
Islamic Call Society to discuss education against radicalism. Earlier this 
week, a World Council of Churches delegation met Christian and Muslim leaders 
in Iran. 

      These efforts aim to build up networks of faith leaders who join ranks to 
condemn religious tensions. For example, imams and rabbis in the United States 
broadcast a television commercial against anti-Semitism and Islamophobia last 
month and twinned 50 synagogues and 50 mosques across the country to work 

      The World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace has held two previous 
meetings, in Brussels in 2005 and Seville in 2006. It agreed to enlarge the 
group to include Christians in future. 

      While this session produced practical results, participants said, it 
could not agree on a final resolution as in previous years because of a 
disagreement over whether to refer to the Palestinian territories as 

      Despite the heated exchanges over the Middle East, imams and rabbis 
defended their work when challenged by journalists asking whether they needed a 
peace agreement among themselves. 

      "The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom," said Yahya Hendi, the 
Palestinian-born Muslim chaplain at Georgetown, a Catholic university in 

      "Blunt talk is not against the process, it's part of the process," said 
Rabbi Tsion Cohen of Shaar-Hanegav in Israel 



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