The rift between Islam and the Western world calls for dialogue, friendship and compromise, said Lord George Carey of Clifton, former Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church. Carey spoke in Whig Hall last night on "Islam versus the West: Challenges Facing the Human Family."
Though he stressed that the majority of Muslims are "peaceful, good" people, Carey criticized the "Wahabi" brand of Islam sometimes promulgated today.
"Islam is indeed being challenged as never before," he said. "It is in opposition to practically every other religion in the world. It is in opposition to democratic governments in the West."
Carey distinguished the peaceful teachings of Islam from the "intolerant and tyrannical beliefs" that he said are spreading throughout the Middle East and that "lend themselves to young impressionable minds searching for certainties," Carey said.
But not all Muslim citizens concerned about the morality of Western culture are radicals, Carey said. Suggesting each listener step into the shoes of a Muslim man or woman, he explained, "As a good Muslim, the world you see disturbs you."
And Carey said he could understand how one might look at Western civilization and see an image of "decadence and moral decline."
In a private interview with the Daily Princetonian, Carey said he disapproved of the recent election of an openly homosexual bishop in a New Hampshire Episcopal diocese. The Episcopal Church is the branch of the Anglican Church followed in the United States.
"It's harmed our unity, the mission of the Anglican community, it has harmed interfaith relationships, especially in Muslim countries," he said. "It's difficult now to see how the unity of the Anglican community can be held . . . I'm fairly gloomy really."
Carey said he has pleaded with angry Anglican leaders to stay with the Church.
Meeting with two local dioceses in Central Florida and South Carolina two weeks ago, Carey said he encountered extreme resentment among the young clergy, who were ready to leave the Church.
"You don't get voting rights if you leave, so don't make hasty decisions, because the Church needs you and the world needs you," Carey said he told the Anglican leaders. "No church is perfect so wherever you go you're going to find imperfections."
Carey cited compromise as essential to overcoming political and religious crises, using the security fence Israel is now constructing on its border with Palestine as an example.
"They say they're keeping the terrorists out but they're actually keeping the people in," he said. "It's important for a powerful nation like Israel to be willing to compromise, she's got to be willing to bend and not always retaliate when a suicide bomber attacks."
Carey presented four strategies in addressing the clash between Islam and the West. They include interfaith cooperation and understanding, a focus on the causes of conflict and healing the wounds of the past, a homeland for Israel and Palestine, and an emphasis on compassion.
Carey ended his speech with a call to cultivate an "enduring partnership based upon the shared values that make us human beings, that make us capable of receiving God's gift of love and peace."
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