RELIGIOUS leaders must counter the lure of extremism by
demonstrating that different faiths can co-exist without becoming
violent, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.
It is too easy for violent radicals to persuade the
impressionable that those from other others faiths were "bad" while
they were "good", Archbishop Welby said. Much of the conflict he
has seen around the Anglican Communion was justified on religious
grounds, and this was spreading to the UK too.
"We've seen attacks on synagogues and mosques, in particular,
and those are totally, utterly abhorrent and unacceptable," he said
at an interfaith reception at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday. "Very
often the most complex issues that are economic, sociological,
geographical, historical, tribal and other things, are used by
evil-minded people - they use religion because it's simple. If you
say, 'You belong to X faith and you're good, and they belong to Y
faith and they're therefore bad…'"
Faith leaders need to offer a counter-narrative by showing how
difference can be "handled well" rather than becoming destructive,
Archbishop Welby said. The audience of representatives from all of
the main faiths in Britain included the chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
and the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
He also warned against being too quick to label others as
religious extremists. According to The Daily Telegraph, he told the
audience that conversations of "nice people talking to nice people
about being nice" would achieve nothing. True reconciliation must
include talking with those we find uncomfortably extreme, he
While Anglicans had their own history of violent persecution
against purported heretics, today they are leading efforts to
reconcile faith groups. Archbishop Welby particularly praised the
work of the Archbishop of Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng, in bringing
warring people together in South Sudan despite the opposition of
many of his "own side".
He also admitted that Anglicans continued to struggle to
overcome their differences today, even if they have largely
abandoned killing each other over them.
"I think the challenge for us here, as UK religious leaders, is
not to find some kind of strange syncretism in which we say there
are no differences, but to find ways of demonstrating
reconciliation - diversity held, but diversity as blessing, not
danger, in the UK."