Bishops issue warnings and lead prayers
The West has entered "dangerous new terrain" with unpredictable consequences by attacking Iraq, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York warned yesterday.
Dr Rowan Williams and Dr David Hope said in a joint statement that the road to military action had been "a long and difficult one".
"Our prayers at this difficult and troubling time are with all those who will find themselves embroiled in conflict and its consequences" they said.
Their statement was careful to retain a neutral tone.
Dr Williams has decided to keep a low profile, making further statements only as events require it. He will not contribute to the BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day slot and has refused requests for interviews and articles. This has led to concern among some church insiders that he is not fulfilling the prophetic role that they hoped he would embrace.
The approach has been adopted by other bishops who also offered prayers for Muslims.
Local Islamic leaders have been invited to hold their midday prayers in Ripon Cathedral, North Yorks, tomorrow.
Other bishops said that it would be "arrogant" to suggest that God was on the side of the West as all people were his creatures.
The Bishop of Bath and Wells, the Right Rev Peter Price, described the attack on Iraq as a defeat for the United Nations, diplomacy and humanity.
He said: "This is not a religious war. The moral dilemma has been and remains a decision between the terrible nature of the threat we have faced from Iraq and the terrible nature of war as a solution. We need to be clear on our immediate and limited war aims: the removal of weapons of mass destruction and a regime change. We must hope and pray that only minimum force will be used to achieve these aims."
Many dioceses are promising special prayers and vigils for peace over the next few days, and parishes have been asked to keep their churches open as much as possible.
Dr David Goodbourn, general secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and Iqbal Sacranie, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, also issued a joint statement.
They said: "It is vitally important that, despite the occasional unhappy use of 'crusade' language by some American political leaders, none should see the conflict as one between faiths."
"Now that war has started, there is an even greater responsibility for Christians and Muslims to maintain bonds of harmony one with another and to pray for all caught up in the conflict."