This transcript of the phone interview between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Jerusalem Post has just been sent to me. Lambeth Palace has given permission for me to post it in full. The interview was done in haste and on the phone because Haaretz was waiting to interview the ABC.
On the subject matter later published in the Jerusalem Post:
ABC Diffficult to say in detail; I have to say – and I'm on record as saying – that I'm not happy about the security fence, simply because of its longer term impact on alienating communities that might be sympathetic. I was in Bethlehem last Christmas and talked to not particularly radical or politically minded young people, Christian and Muslim particularly there, who simply found it a daily burden and one of the things that was driving them away from the country. Now I don’t know how you resolve that conundrum but I simply point out that there is that that deep, long-term alienation which is not going to be in Israel’s interest. I'm …
JP (question about the route of the security barrier)
ABC I think that particular route that’s been chosen has its own problems; it’s involved a number of disputes about land ownership; as for the general principle, I don’t like walls; I can see why it was erected, I can see the crisis and the sense of vulnerability out of which it comes …
ABC I’ve heard the same thing; very difficult to calculate, isn’t it? I know that the numbers of terrorist attacks have fallen but whether it’s begun to address the deeper and long term issues,
Seven questions and answers not published in the Jerusalem Post
ABC Thank you yes, We made an agreement last year with the Chief Rabbis which we signed in London in September 06 that there should be meeting each year between myself and the Chief Rabbinate and that in between there should be a commission looking into issues of common concern, theological exploration ethical issues and so on, so this is part of that and the follow up to that. Sorry?
JP What are the issues?
ABC Two of the issues that have come up today; one is, and it’ll be in the communiqué from the meeting to do with the request that yes … here we are … [reads] in solidarity between religious communities, all the communities, we should regard each other’s places of worship as sacrosanct and inviolate…that is people should not attack the places of worship of other faiths and that is part of what I’ve sometimes called in Britain taking responsibility for each other, standing by each other when we’re under attack; that’s one of the main issues.
JP [Any examples?]
ABC: I think there are a number of cases across the world where you could point to attacks on places of worship; we know that, in Iraq, both churches and mosques have been under attack, sometimes Muslim groups against other Muslim groups; in Britain there have been attacks on Synagogues, so it’s all part of a pattern we want to make a statement across the board about that. We already have a protocol; on this in the United Kingdom.
ABC Not that I'm aware of, no. The second issue that was raised was about all of us again, as religious communities looking at the educational materials that we use and making sure that when we speak or write about another community, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, whatever, we take on board fully their own perspective, their own account; we don’t use distorting material and those were just two of the issues that came up in our discussion; but if I can just add one further point, which is …
ABC … yes …
JP [presumably example of one?]
ABC … Yes, I mean we hear that there are materials circulating in some Muslim contexts that are defamatory about Judaism; we’re conscious also that in our own Christian history we have sometimes presented Judaism in a false or misleading way. I can’t speak for the Jewish tradition but it’s a challenge to all of us. I’d just wanted to say that the further point that arose which I think is quite important for the future…
ABC I think if there are any distorting materials around, they need to be challenged; that’s the bottom line … we hear that there are such, we want to challenge it. OK?
The other point I just wanted to put in; the fact that we now have a Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land is I think a major step forward, and this is a group – Christian Muslim and Jewish – which will be visiting the United States next week, together. I think that the important thing there is that the dialogue between the religious leaders is now at an institutional level not just a personal one it doesn’t just depend simply on individuals; the institutions – the Sharia courts, the hierarchies of the Christian churches and the Chief Rabbinate – are involved as institutions and I think this is a step forward because as I say it doesn’t now depend on the goodwill of any individual. So that’s a positive thing coming out of this morning; just being aware of that and the meeting in Washington next week.
ABC I hope so; I think from the time of the Alexandria Declaration onwards and we’ve seen groups of religious leaders coming together to say that violence in the name of religion is unacceptable; it’s said over and over again; we just hope that by saying it over and over again it begins to make some impact it’s very slow but it’s still worth saying, just because there are still people who take refuge behind that.