Lord Sacks calls on moderates of all faiths to defend religious freedom


Emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has called for moderates of all faiths to stand together in defence of religious freedom in the wake of what he called the “religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing” of Christians in the Middle East.

He said that he had protested at the treatment of Christians as “loudly as I possibly can” but added that he was “surprised that the protests have not been wider and stronger”.

Once comprising 20 per cent of the Middle East, the Christian population had fallen to four per cent, he said at an event hosted by the Spectator magazine in London to launch his latest book, Not In God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence.

Rabbi Sacks, who was in conversation with the television presenter Andrew Neil, said that moderates of all faith had to stand together to defend the principle of religious freedom enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“If we stand together we will win,” he said. “If we fail, we will lose.”

The training of religious leaders who can teach how people of different faiths could live peaceably together had become a “global priority” he said.

Also important was to look at the religious messages given to children. “If children throughout the world are being taught to hate people of other faiths, that people whose faith is not mine are destined to burn in hell, then all the weaponry in the world will not bring peace,” he said.

His book explores the roots of religious violence and explains trouble between Jews, Christians and Muslims as a form of sibling rivalry. But he argues that such rivalry is not inevitable and that religious texts can be interpreted in a way which promotes co-existence rather than conflict.

It contained “challenging ideas for all three monotheisms,” he said. “It is not an easy book. It asks each one of us, Jews, Christian or Muslim to think again.”

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