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Religions look to soccer to promote goal of interfaith peace

While soccer fans throughout the world get ready for the start of the World Cup in Germany, religious leaders hope to use the month-long event to promote peace between the faiths.

In Berlin, Christians, Jews and Muslims are looking forward to an inter-religious soccer tournament on 25 June, following a first match between Christian clerics and Muslim imams in May.

"We played for the peace message, and that’s a good reason to play on," said Christopher Jage-Bowler, the Church of England chaplain in Berlin, who helped dream up the idea.

In the match on 6 May, a team made up of a member of the Salvation Army and seven people from Protestant denominations played eight Muslim imams. The Christian team won by 12 goals to one.

Jage-Bowler devised the match after reading about a similar "clerics against imams" fixture in Leicester in northern England, refereed by a Jewish rabbi.

In the event, it proved impossible to find a rabbi to referee the Berlin match because it was played on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. A Roman Catholic priest who also wanted to take part fell ill shortly before the game.

"Next time we have to make sure we play when every religion can join us on the field," Jage-Bowler told Ecumenical News International.

Meanwhile, in the South Korean capital of Seoul, more than 100 clerics of different faiths took part in an inter-religious soccer tournament on 25 May, the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) reported. They came from the traditions of Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Won Buddhism, a religion founded in Korea in the early 20th century.

In the final match, the Won Buddhist team defeated the Protestants 1-0 to win the trophy.

Son Chang-seon, a Won Buddhist representative, described the event as "meaningful", UCAN noted. "We have different doctrines," he acknowledged, but "the fundamental goal we are aiming for is the same."

(c) Ecumenical News International