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Anglican leader warns on military action against Iran

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams
The head of the worldwide Anglican Communion has cautioned against a military incursion into Iran by Western powers who say they are increasingly nervous about that country’s revived nuclear technology programme.

"I hope and pray that the West doesn’t embark on another costly and misjudged military adventure that will further destabilise an already unstable region," the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams told a 17 February media conference in Porto Alegre.

The Anglican leader confessed to "some anxiety" about the proliferation of nuclear activity, particularly in Iran when he spoke to journalists during the World Council of Churches’ ninth assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported Iran to the UN Security Council earlier in February for failing to allay suspicions it is seeking nuclear weapons. The council is awaiting a report by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei in March before taking any action.

Earlier, in an address to the global church gathering on "Christian identity and religious plurality", Williams said many non-Christian majorities "regard the Christian presence as a threat, or at least the sign of a particular geopolitical agenda, linked with the USA or the West in general".

He noted: "The suffering of Christian minorities as a result of this is something which all of our churches and the whole of this assembly need constantly to keep in focus." This was an apparent reference to Christians living in areas such as the Middle East and many parts of Asia.

In a global environment of increasingly varied beliefs, Williams said at his press conference that churches are torn between the two temptations of "triumphalism" and "apologism". Christians and their churches sometimes either "insist that they and they alone possess the truth" or "slip into the attitude that every faith is like any other".

Still, in his speech to assembly delegates he described Christian exclusivism as "impossible". But neither could the question of Christian identity in a pluralistic world "be answered in cliches about the tolerant co-existence of different opinions", the Anglican leader said.

In a video message to the assembly from his native Jordan, Prince El Hassan bin Talal spoke of the need to promote the "unity of values" between people of all religions.

"Muslims, Christians and Jews believe in one God. The ethical and moral codes of our faiths centre on justice, equality, freedom, charity and faith in God," said Prince El Hassan, who says he is a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammad.

Buddhist and Jewish speakers also addressed the assembly.

WCC leaders said at the opening of the 14-23 February gathering in Porto Alegre that interfaith dialogue would be a future priority for the Geneva-based grouping that gathers more than 340 predominantly Protestant, Anglican and Christian Orthodox churches.

(c) Ecumenical News International

Photo : Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams