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Archbishop of Canterbury Calls for Inter-Faith Tolerance

In what he called a time of stress and harassment in the world, the Archbishop of Canterbury has called for unity among the major faiths in his Christmas message. In his first Christmas message since he took office as Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams spoke of the need for more tolerance between the non-religious and religious worlds.

"It is not all that surprising if a secular environment sometimes looks at religion not only with suspicion or incomprehension, but with fear," he said. "The proposal to ban Muslim head scarves in French schools suggests that there is still a nervousness about letting commitment show its face in public lest ground be given to some threatening, irrational power that will take over the world of reasonable people."

While urging the secular world to overcome its mistrust of religion, the Archbishop said that the misuse of faith has in historical terms led to examples of oppression and violence, and at times has been used as an excuse for atrocities.

The spiritual head of the Anglican Church said that religion had too often been used as a tool of power. And he called on Christians to show that their faith is on the side of humanity.

Earlier this week, the Archbishop criticized the detention of terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay without proper legal representation, and also criticized the British government for some of its new anti-terrorism measures that he said had the effect of alienating the country's Muslim population.

Mr. Williams also used his Christmas Day message to condemn those who carry out acts of terror in the name of religion.

The Archbishop said that Christians, Muslims, Jews and others must in these difficult times to stand together and speak out for each other. Tolerance, he said is born of multi-faith unity.

But he did not mention the tolerance issue that threatened to split the worldwide Anglican church this year. Conservative Anglican leaders in some countries severed relations with their counterparts in the U.S. state of New Hampshire after a homosexual clergyman was appointed as a bishop. Earlier in the year, Archbishop Williams himself was forced to accept the withdrawal of a homosexual clergyman he had wanted to promote following a huge outcry.