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Audio: Living with faith in 2007

Panel discussion with the UK's major faith leaders at the British Library, 30 April 2007

Melvyn Bragg with four major faith leadersMajor British faith leaders joined forces to stress what the great faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have in common – and criticised the media for stoking religious prejudice – in a far-ranging debate chaired by Melvyn Bragg at the British Library held to mark the opening of the Sacred Exhibition.
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Taking part with chairman Melvyn Bragg (left of picture) were (from next left to right) Sir Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth; Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury; Moulana Mohammad Shahid Raza, Director of the Imams and Mosques Council UK and founder trustee of the British Muslim Forum; and the Most Reverend Kevin McDonald, Catholic Archbishop of Southwark.

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks firmly blamed the British media for failing to report on good news concerning inter-faith discussion, resulting in people having to be spectacularly rude or violent to win a hearing for their case.

He said: "Here we are, we have spent an hour and a half, Jews, Christians, Muslims, sitting together in friendly discourse, sitting on the same side of the table, something that any previous generation in our history would have regarded as impossible and here it is happening, and it's great news, and nobody wants to know.

"And what do they want to know? They want to know something that resembles the public spectacles of Rome in its decadence, they want to throw Christians to lions, or lions to Christians, and so the voices that gain resonance in our culture and in the media are extreme secularists or religious extremists. And they're very comfortable with one another because the extreme secularists can point to the religious voices and say they're fanatics and the religious extremists can point to the secularists and say they're totally atheist decadents.etc, etc.

"And in a culture like that, the angriest voice wins. And the only way you win a hearing for your case is either to be spectacularly rude or spectacularly violent. And that is the world that the media creates and people who are either very rude or very violent know exactly how to use it to gain a hearing. The danger that that represents is unbelievable and it is serious."

Lord Bragg also asked the panellists to discuss what unites and divides the great religions of the book - Protestant and Catholic Christianity, Islam and Judaism. The panellists debated questions such as, 'What unites and divides people of faith today? 'Is Jesus a polarising figure?' and 'Why is it important for Christians to spread the world of the Gospel and do Jews and Muslims seek to convert other people to their faith?'

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Sacred contexts