Muslim scholars call for peace with Christians

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LONDON, Oct 11 (Reuters) More than 130 Muslim scholars called for peace and understanding today between Islam and Christianity, saying ''the very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake''.

In a letter to Pope Benedict and other Christian leaders, Muslim scholars from around the world said finding common ground between the world's biggest religions was not simply a matter for polite dialogue between religious leaders.

''If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world's inhabitants,'' the scholars wrote.

''Our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake,'' they wrote.

Relations between Muslims and Christians have been under strain as al Qaeda has struck around the world and the United States and other Western countries have intervened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Using quotations from the Bible and the Koran to support their message, the scholars told people who relished conflict and destruction that ''our very eternal souls are ... at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony''.

''So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works.

''Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to (one) another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill,'' the scholars wrote.

The letter was signed by Muslim scholars from around the world, including Algerian Religious Affairs Minister Bouabdellah Ghlamallah and the Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa.

It was addressed to the Pope and to other Christian leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the Anglican Church.

Pope Benedict caused widespread anger among Muslims last year by suggesting Islam was violent, quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor who spoke of the Prophet Mohammad's ''command to spread by the sword the faith he preached''.

The leader of more than one billion Roman Catholics repeatedly expressed regret for the reaction to the speech, but stopped short of the unequivocal apology wanted by Muslims.

Reuters AE GC1640

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