Israeli Rabbis Participate in Muslim Peace Conference in Cairo

Yoav Stern
Haaretz Correspondent
Yoav Stern
Haaretz Correspondent

More than 30 Palestinian Muslim religious leaders met Wednesday for the final day of a three-day conference in Cairo, within the framework of the "Alexandria Process" - an initiative which brings together senior Muslim, Jewish and Christian religious leaders in an effort to work together for peace in the Holy Land.

The "Alexandria Process" pledges religious leaders to work together to promote a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to continue inter-faith dialogue.

The conference was also attended by Rabbi Michael Melchior and Rabbi Menachem Fruman, both members of the Alexandria Process, who were present as observers. On Wednesday, the group met with Osama El-Baz, senior aide to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who offered the Egyptian government's support for the initiative.

El-Baz also told participants that Cairo is concerned by the ongoing stagnation in the diplomatic process, adding that, " from the moment there is no diplomatic progress, the extremists from both sides are liable to erupt."

The group of religious leaders visited Al-Azhar University and met with the institution's Sheikh Mohammad Sayed al-Tantawi, Egypt's senior religious figure and a leading Sunni Muslim authority internationally.

Tantawi expressed his full support for the inter-religious dialogue. "You have the full legitimacy of the Sunni world," he said on Wednesday morning.

Melchior said the importance of the talks lies not in the meetings with senior Egyptian officials but rather in the creation of a basis for inter-religious dialogue.

"The participants immediately embarked on a deep discussion on Islam. It is very important that there is a religious partner who will be ready to talk with us about a peace based on justice and religion," Melchior said.

The Alexandria Process, launched two years ago under the guidance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, received the support of Mubarak and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The statement announcing the initiative declared "the murder of innocents in the name of God is a desecration of his holy name."

The initiative's representatives have met with Pope John Paul II, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and leaders of the United States, Russia and the European Union.

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