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German president calls need for religious dialogue 'ever more urgent'

[Episcopal News Service]  Visiting the Geneva headquarters of the World Council of Churches, German President Johannes Rau said that dialogue between the world's religions was essential if the world was to live in peace.

'Without peace between the world religions, world peace is not possible,' said Rau, citing the Swiss Catholic theologian Hans Kung.

The need for dialogue between cultures and religions had become 'ever more urgent, particularly since the events of 11 September,' when hijacked aircraft destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and damaged the Pentagon, killing thousands of people.

The WCC has called for an end to the United States-led military action in Afghanistan undertaken in response to the September attacks. But Rau told a press conference that the decision to launch military action in Afghanistan had been taken in agreement with the United Nations and was 'appropriate'.

'Many were afraid that the reaction would be more adventurous than it was,' said Rau, a prominent Protestant layman who as a school student was active in Germany's Confessing Church, which opposed intervention by the Nazis in church life.

Rau had been invited to Geneva by the WCC to take part in a round-table discussion on inter-religious and inter-confessional dialogue and on the role of religion in politics.

He told a press conference in Geneva that while there was 'no alternative to globalization,' its benefits must not be confined to industrialized countries. 'Globalization that contributes to progress only in industrialized states will lead not only to international criticism but also to corresponding reactions,' Rau said, adding that there was a need for 'human rights to be globalized as much as the stock exchange.'

'But what I cannot do is to relate this directly to 11 September,' he said when asked if he agreed with the WCC that the answer to terrorism was to deal with inequalities and injustices that breed violence between and within nations. 'The only thing we know is that there is no justification for terrorism, no justification for the fact that planes are used as weapons, no justification for creating anxiety among people, that they are being contaminated by real or alleged chemicals.'