Anglican, Jewish Leaders Urge Protection of All Holy Sites

The Anglican Communion and Israel's chief rabbis issued a joint declaration calling religious communities worldwide to protect all holy sites.

Archbishop Rowan Williams, who spiritually leads the world's 77-million Anglicans, and Israeli Chief Rabbis Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger agreed Tuesday that the desecration of any holy site is a setback to all religious people.

"Every holy place – for example, synagogue, church or mosque – that belong to religious people, keep it as a holy place," Metzger said, according to The Associated Press. "We hope that people will hear it and will keep our decision."

Religious leaders during the meeting avoided speaking directly about the contentious site in the Old City where the Al Aqsa Mosque was built over the ruins of the biblical Jewish temple. The site, which is regarded holy by Muslims, Jews, and Christians, is claimed by both Israelis and Palestinians and both sides accuse the other of desecrating it.

"I'm not here primarily to discuss the political situation," said Williams. "Our prayers are – as they always are – for peace and justice in this region, and we are to share our perspectives with one another in private."

Williams also urged fighters to not use holy sites to launch attacks, which he likens to using "religious language to justify violence."

The Anglican-Jewish commission was established last year and met for the first time in July with the goal to promote understanding between the religions.

During the meeting earlier this year the religious leaders focused on a peaceful resolution between Israel and the Palestinians. They also said suicide and homicide in the name of religion is blasphemous.

"These conversations are an invaluable opportunity to cement the relationship between our communities, and to build on the opportunities that interreligious cooperation provides," said Williams on Wednesday, according to the Anglican Communion News Service.

"Dialogue and mutual respect are the seed beds within which understanding and common cause can flourish, sometimes, by the grace of God, in the most unpromising of circumstances."

During the recent meeting, the leaders also requested more research on the environment, ecology, science, technology, and education.