Prince Charles launches interfaith initiative

 Prince Charles has launched a major interfaith initiative with a call for all religions to unite in "faith in the integrity of life itself". The Prince of Wales was flanked by senior members of nine faiths - including the the Catholic bishop of Northampton Kevin McDonald - as he got the "Respect" programme underway yesterday. The prince told one of the biggest-ever gatherings of UK faith leaders that "love and forgiveness" were the "only means of breaking the cycle of cause and effect - of hatred, vengeance and conflict - and reconciling the opposites in our relations with each other". He called on the faiths to give each other their time in a two-year nationwide scheme organised by the TimeBank and Prince's Trust charities. Prince Charles said: "Let's remember we are in fact united by a common bond of faith - faith in a sacred dimension beyond ourselves, faith in a divine essence to the meaning of our existence, faith in the integrity of life itself. "This bond is something infinitely precious at a time when we have already crossed the threshold into a world where faith itself is denigrated, where humanity is to be redesigned in man's, not God's, image and nature is to be re-engineered for the purpose of our own convenience." He added the time-giving scheme was about "the young Muslim mowing the lawn for the elderly Hindu lady down the street, or the choir from the Catholic church or Anglican parish church singing to entertain the Jewish old people's club." Leaders of the faiths all called for greater cooperation and dialogue between their religions. Bishop McDonald, chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales's Committee for Other Faiths and Committee for Catholic-Jewish Relations, said: "Relations between faiths are of crucial importance for this millennium." He added: "ignorance is an obstacle to faiths coming together" and that the Respect initiative provided "an antidote" to those in society who reject faith of any kind. Bishop McDonald was supported at the launch by Fr Jim Fleming who helps run an asylum seeker befriending programme in Birmingham. Fr Fleming said: "Most of the people I work with are young and from other religions. This initiative recognises that we should do the best we can to reach out to asylum seekers." The Respect programme was the eventual result of a dinner thrown for faith leaders four years ago by Prince Charles. The idea emerged of giving time to other faiths. This will now happen through a network of 400 groups across Britain, and many of the events are to tie in with the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations. More than half a million Respect leaflets will be distributed throughout libraries, schools, community centres and faith groups. The Prince joked: "A name was needed and everybody seems to have settled on 'Respect'. I wonder if the eponymous Ali G was on the committee. My children certainly think he was!" More seriously, he added: "Over the past year, we have seen internationally, nationally and locally all too many examples of intolerance to others. "Tolerance is an easy word to pronounce but it seems to be very difficult to enact in our lives. "And yet it is such a tragedy that when the various faith communities have so much in common, the members should be so often divided by the different ways we have of interpreting the inner meaning of our existence." The Prince of Wales's words were strongly backed by senior representatives of Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Jain, Muslim, Baha'I, Brahma Kumaris, Swaminaryan Mandir and Guru Nanak Nishkam Sevak Jatha faiths. The Chief Rabbi Jonathon Sacks said: "If this is not an antidote to cynicism, what is? One good act of reaching out for friendship can save a life." Muslim leader Zaki Badawi said: "This is the conference of the faithful. But our society suffers from virulent secularism and with that racism and division happen." Anglican Bishop James Jones, of Liverpool, said: The future stability of the world depends on the mutual respect and understanding of faith communities." And Jain representative Atul Shah proposed bringing the faiths together at a "cook-in" of Indian food. "We could share the spices of ingredients and spices of culture," he said. source: CMS

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