Cardinal Godfried Danneels, Archbishop of Malines-Brussels, was one of the keynote speakers at the fourth European Council of Religious Leaders Conference, on the theme: Muslims in Britain, held at a Sikh Gurdwara situated in Soho Road, Birmingham, from Monday 12 to today, 14 February, writes Peter Jennings. The European Council works within the framework of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, which since 1970 has brought people together across religious boundaries including Christians, Jews and Muslims. The first UK conference of ECRL was held in the new conference centre at the impressive Sikh Gurdwara (GNNSJ), at the invitation of Dr Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, its distinguished Spiritual Leader and Chairman. Cardinal Danneels, who was appointed Archbishop of Malines-Brussels in 1979 by Pope John Paul II and given the red hat in February 1983, introduced the third session on: Religion in the public sphere. During his paper Cardinal Danneels, who was born in June 1933, said: "It seems impossible, even pretentious, to determine and define what one might call the European genius, the European mentality, or the European sensitivity." Archbishop Dr Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, Head of the Holy Synod of the Albanian Orthodox Church, introduced the second session, on the complex issue, Terror and fear, that was closed to the media in order to allow a frank exchange of views. In 1992, following he fall of the Communist government, Dr Anastasios was appointed Archbishop of the newly established Albanian Orthodox Church. Imam Dr Ataullah Siddiqui, from the Islamic Foundation in Leicester, and Vice Chair of the Christian Muslim Forum, introduced the first session of the conference: Muslims in Britain - What's the problem? The previous evening, Mr Bill Ozanne, Secretary, Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue, in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, gave a short address on: Birmingham as a Multicultural City. Mr John Battle MP, (Leeds West since 1987), the Prime Minister's Envoy to the Faith Communities, was among the observers at the conference, meticulously organized by the Oslo, based ECRL Secretariat and assisted by the helpful and efficient volunteer members of the Gurdwara. Meanwhile, members of the Birmingham Faith Leaders' Group, including Archbishop Vincent Nichols, sent a special message of welcome dated 12 February, to the delegates and observers attending this important conference. The message said: "It is especially opportune that the conference, focusing on Muslims in Britain, is being held in Birmingham at this particular moment. "As leaders from the City's faith communities we are aware of the feeling of isolation and vulnerability among many in the Muslim community, following the recent action to arrest nine men and subsequently charge six individuals, on suspicion of involvement in the planning of terrorist acts. We believe our faiths should lead to a more peaceful and stable society where all members of the community, of whatever background, can participate fully. "We are united in supporting the police and other public authorities in the investigation of suspected plans to undermine the security of individuals and communities. We believe those investigations and resulting judicial processes should be carried through with fairness and transparency. "Terrorist activity is about criminality and we have consistently condemned such activity and the damage it causes. We regret the sensational nature of much of the media coverage which has exacerbated the difficulties faced by local communities." The message concluded: "In this regard, we stand together with the Muslim community of Birmingham during these difficult times. We are convinced that our faith traditions, working together, can provide an important vision for the cohesion and wellbeing of our City." Source: Diocese of Birmingham
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