The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has said greed is the root cause of the current economic crisis and he has called on Christians and Muslims to work together to decide upon a fairer system of borrowing and lending - writes Martin Revis.
"The Christian tradition has always been cautious about interest and for many centuries it was very much of one mind with the Islamic tradition, but after the 16th century that changed," Williams, the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, said at a media conference in London recently, following a three-day meeting in Cambridge of Christian and Muslim scholars and clerics.
Williams said, "I would like very much to see a dialogue developing with Islam about this question of what a just, a reasonable rate of interest might look like in the light of a religious ethic, but this work is very much in its infancy."
Asked who was to blame for the current global financial crisis, Williams at first joked, "I am going to suggest Satan." He then said, "Clearly, as religious leaders we want to say that the root of the problem is human greed, which is not specific to one nation or even to the governing class or any one religion."
A joint statement issued by conference participants urged world leaders to act together to ensure that the burden of the current financial crisis and the global environmental crisis did not fall unevenly on the weak and poor.
"We must seize the opportunity for implementing a more equitable global economic system that also respects our role as stewards of the earth's resources," the statement said.
Referring to the situation in Mosul, northern Iraq, where almost 1400 Christian families have fled their homes in fear for their lives, participants said, "These threats undermine the centuries-old tradition of local Muslims protecting and nourishing the Christian community and must stop."
The statement described the meeting as, "the most significant gathering of international Muslim leaders" to have taken place in Britain, and they said it had been matched by a similarly wide diversity of traditions and geographical backgrounds amongst the Christian participants.
The meeting marked the first anniversary of an open letter, "a common word between us and you", by 138 Muslim scholars and clerics to Christian leaders urging followers of the two faiths to find common ground to promote world peace
Separately, the Geneva-based World Council of Churches announced on 15 October it would host a consultation of 50 church leaders and experts on Christian-Muslim dialogue from 18 to 20 October.
The WCC said the consultation was intended to build on initiatives such as the Cambridge meeting in order to provide a space for churches and communions to share their initiatives and theological resources to engage with Muslims.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]