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Last updated: 2003-06-10

Leaders of the Three Faiths Forum and of the Board of Deputies met Foreign Secretary Jack Straw yesterday to discuss the role of faith communities in helping to deal with current international issues.

Mr. Straw emphasised his great respect for the Forum and its work, commenting: “It is very important to bring together faith communities, particularly at local level. The shared values of the three Abrahamic faiths provide a sound basis for working together.”

Sir Sigmund Sternberg expressed his concern about moving forward the Alexandria process which is promoting cooperation among the three Abrahamic faiths, particularly in the Middle East. Canon Andrew White, who undertakes this activity on behalf of the Archbishop of Canterbury, described his recent visits to Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Jack Straw said that with the recent progress over the Road Map, it was desirable that the religious track should keep ahead of the political track in order to provide the basis for a better understanding among the various parties.

Neville Nagler from the Board of Deputies told the Foreign Secretary of the Jewish community’s concern over antisemitic incitement in the state-controlled Arab media and handed over a dossier containing recent examples. Jack Straw said that he would follow up on this: “It is essential for the Arab governments to get a grip on antisemitism which is published in the media in their countries and sometimes with their support. The Arab states must show respect for Israel as well as recognition. The West should support the courageous steps taken by Ariel Sharon and Abu Mazen. We must deal with both antisemitism and Islamaphobia.” He agreed with Sheikh Dr. Zaki Badawi that the terrorists must not be allowed to dictate the agenda.