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City rallies for peace
By Aaron Wherry
While peace in the Middle East remains elusive, religious groups in London have taken steps to ensure potential conflicts can be avoided.
In a meeting at City Hall, initiated by London Mayor Dianne Haskett, religious leaders from throughout London met yesterday to open the lines of dialogue and discuss how peace could be maintained in the Forest City.
"I wish to express how grateful we are for the peace and joy we have in London," Haskett said at a press conference following the gathering. "Even though there is tension in other parts of the world, we are grateful for the unity we have. We attribute the peace to the leadership of these groups."
Surrounded by Muslim, Jewish, Catholic and Anglican leaders, Haskett also announced the signing of a mutual agreement by all parties as a result of the discussion. "We are gathering together today as a demonstration of the mutual respect, peace and harmony that exists among us," she said. "Irrespective of religious or ethnic background and irrespective of events in other parts of the globe, we in London live together as neighbours and as friends."
Beyond this statement, London area religious leaders also agreed to form a permanent council accessible to the mayor's office and London citizens, which Haskett said will help foster discussion and co-operation between the diverse groups.
The mayor added events in London and other communities in North America had stirred tension over the conflict in the Middle East and this agreement was a step in ensuring London remained peaceful.
Bishop John Sherlock, of the Diocese of London said he wished to thank the mayor for bringing these leaders together. "On behalf of everyone, I would like to express our profound appreciation to the mayor," he said. "It was something we all wished for and it was her initiative that crystallized this."
Campus leaders applauded the move by the mayor and community leaders.
Andrea Boulay, University Students' Council VP-campus issues said she was impressed by the agreement. "I think this is a great statement from the City to live and work together toward a common goal," she said.
Abdel-Rahman Lawendy, a member of the Muslim Students' Association who spoke at a campus discussion on conflict in the Middle East Wednesday afternoon, said he would consider discussing such an agreement with campus groups. "We have absolutely no conflict with people of faith," he said. "We would come together and negotiate anything."
Raye Berk, director of the Jewish Students' Union said the JSU would also be willing to negotiate such an agreement, calling the statement signed by community leaders a "beautiful document."