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'An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind'.

Byline: Helen Bruce Religious Affairs Reporter

Religious leaders in the Midlands yesterday called for caution before retaliation escalated into all-out war against the forces of 'unimaginable evil' which struck fear into the heart of America.

As people streamed into places of worship across the region to light candles and sign books of condolence, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and Jewish leaders said innocent lives must be spared if the US retaliated against the perpetrators of Tuesday's atrocities.

Speaking at a special Mass at St Chad's Cathedral for the victims of the terrorist attacks, the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, last night said such 'callous disregard for human life' would not be tolerated.

But he prayed for clear thinking before the US sought revenge against the terrorists' country of origin.

He said: 'The figure of the crucified Christ, the result of violence, teaches us that in human affairs the cycle of violence leads only to death.

'Violence breeds violence. Legitimate self-defence is right. But wanton violence is never right.

'Let us pray that in these days ahead cool heads may prevail. We pray for governments worldwide and especially President Bush and his colleagues.'

The Bishop of Birmingham, the Right Rev Mark Santer, said he was 'appalled and bewildered' by Tuesday's attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, but feared a hasty strike-back by America could cost more innocent lives.

He said: 'It is a tragedy which will affect lives all over the world, not just today but for many years to come. It is also a reminder of the immense vulnerability of our technological world.

'Nothing can excuse this kind of attack on innocent civilians. Americans, though, must not descend to levels of the highest violence.

'It is the job of politicians to think long-term. The lives of ordinary Afghans, or whoever is found to be responsible, are as valuable as the lives of innocent Americans.

'It reminds me of Gandhi saying, 'An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind'. I'm not saying nothing needs to be done, but we must be very careful.'

The Dean of Coventry, the Very Rev John Irvine, also feared indiscriminate retaliation by the United States.

He said: 'We pray for world leaders as they discuss the way forward following this tragedy, in particular President George Bush and his advisers.

'With all the anger and outrage hanging over these events we are very aware that people will find the idea of reconciliation painful.'

The Bishop of Worcester, the Right Rev Dr Peter Selby, said: 'I hope people will not leap to conclusions before we know the answers to many questions.'

The Bishop of Dudley, the Right Rev David Walker, said: 'The world has witnessed something unimaginably evil.

'For now we can only stand alongside our brothers and sisters in America, offering our support, our prayers and our condolences.'

Rabbi Leonard Tann, of the Singers Hill Synagogue, added: 'The evil and wickedness of people who disguise actions like this as religious fervour beggars belief. It is a total perversion of religion.'

Dr Abdur Rahim, president of Birmingham Islamic Centre, said: 'We condemn and are sorry for what has happened.

'We demand retaliation against those people who are responsible, but not against the innocent. That is our concern.'

Spokesmen for the Sikh and Hindu communities in Birmingham demanded tough action.

Jaswant Singh Heera, vice-chairman of the Council of Sikh Gurdwaras in Birmingham, said: 'As President Bush said, they have got to take revenge. It's a sad story but they have got to pinpoint the people who have taken so many lives. They should suffer for it.'

Pradymna Mishra Das, temple president of the Hare Krishna Cultural Centre in Birmingham, is a New York Hindu who has preached in, and has many friends in, the World Trade Centre.

He said: 'For aggression of this scale there is only one ramification and that is the execution of those responsible.

'There is a feeling in the temple that this is the beginning of a very dark period for the world.'

A service was also held at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, for the town's many American visitors, who told the vicar, Rev Martin Gorick, they felt the US was at war.

Today an open service is being held at the Central Synagogue in Pershore Road, Birmingham, at 8pm.

Meanwhile, in what is believed to be their first public appearance together, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, the Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks and Dr Zaki Badawi, principal of the Muslim College, yesterday appealed for unity in face of the atrocities.

Dr Carey, reading from a statement on behalf of the group gathered at Lambeth Palace, said: 'We and all people of good faith and good will - whatever their religious, ethnic or racial background - are appalled by these terrible attacks on American cities. Such evil deeds have no place in the world we seek to build and share.'

'Our hearts go out to the people of America and all those who grieve and mourn. We pray for them and with them. We remember the dead, the bereaved, the injured, and the missing and all those working to save lives.'

Power of prayer: Religious leaders fear more innocents will die in retaliation for US attacks

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People from all across the region joined together in prayer for the tragic victims who perished in the terrorist attack Images inside St Philips Cathedral, Birmingham, where a special service and book of condolence was started
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 13, 2001
Words:922
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